No video made of fatal chase

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Monday that no videotape recording exists of a police chase that led to a fatal car wreck.

In response to a request from The Augusta Chronicle for a copy of a video recording of the Saturday crash, Sheriff Strength said the patrol car's video and audio recorders were inoperable that night.

"They went out on Feb. 29 and hadn't been sent out for repairs," Sheriff Strength said.

"It's not that unusual. We have 250 cameras, and they can go out at any time," he said.

He added that even if the camera had worked properly, he would not have permitted media outlets to have a copy "until the investigation is complete."

The chase, which involved sheriff's Deputy Anthony Gregory, resulted in the death of 42-year-old Laura Latimer of Augusta. A Chevrolet Blazer being chased by the deputy struck a car in which Ms. Latimer was a passenger at the intersection of Gordon Highway and Old Savannah Road. The Blazer's driver, Jamie Lee Clark, 19, of Jackson, pulled off after he had been stopped for running a traffic light in the 1200 block of Broad Street.

Deputy Gregory's supervisor twice told him to "break off" the chase, according to an audio account aired on WRDW-TV.

On Monday, Sheriff Strength re-emphasized that he stands by Deputy Gregory's actions as the sheriff's office and the Georgia State Patrol officials investigate the accident.

The sheriff describes such chases as a "necessary evil."

"You can't have a policy and say you're not going to pursue anyone because of course then everybody runs," he said. "This was a terrible, terrible accident, but the cause of this tragedy was the suspect's decision to flee."

Mr. Clark is charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, fleeing and attempting to elude, reckless driving, violation of learner's permit restriction and DUI, according to Sheriff Strength.

The sheriff said the deputy never acknowledged to dispatchers that he had heard an order to back off, which might mean the deputy could not hear his radio.

Deputy Gregory, 26, has worked for the Sheriff's Office for three years and initially worked as a jailer, Sheriff Strength said. The deputy remains fully employed and has not been suspended, the sheriff said.

"He has been a good employee," he said.

Reach Timothy Cox or Adam Folk at (706) 724-0851

AUDIO

- Listen to the police radio recording