Four deputies suspended after they wreck chasing motorcycle

DARIEN, Ga. -- Four McIntosh County deputies who totaled their patrol cars Saturday while chasing a motorcycle on Interstate 95 likely violated department procedure, Sheriff Steve Jessup said Monday.

"Our guys did not follow our written policy on hot pursuit," Jessup said. "It's in our standard operating procedures manual. They all have a copy."

The rider of the motorcycle has been identified as a soldier at Fort Stewart and is on hold at the Army post until McIntosh County secures warrants for his arrest, Jessup said.

Jessup said he did not know the soldier's name but would not identify him until a final witness is interviewed and the warrants are issued. He also declined to identify the four deputies until an internal affairs investigation is complete but said all four have been suspended with pay.

At least in its early stages, the chase hit speeds of 100 mph, the Liberty County Sheriff's Office told the Savannah Morning News.

"They are lucky to be alive," Jessup said of the McIntosh County deputies.

After Liberty County deputies broke off the chase, McIntosh County deputies continued to pursue the motorcycle until all four vehicles crashed just north of Darien, the Georgia State Patrol said.

Trooper Quincy Melvin told the Morning News that one of the deputies tried to pass the others in the right lane and almost ran into the rear of a truck in that lane.

As the deputy attempted to get back into the left lane, he lost control and hit another patrol car causing it to spin and hit a retaining wall, Melvin said.

Two other deputies tried to stop and one hit the other in the rear end, he said.

Jessup said all four cars, a 2008, a 2005 and two that were older, were total losses.

"I'm already short cars and now I'm more short," he said.

To continue patrols, officers will have to share cars and that will wear some out quicker.

"To run one 24 hours a day rather than 12 hours a day wears them out," he said.

Even more troubling is that I-95 is under construction throughout most of the length of the chase and that made it even more dangerous, Jessup said.

Because the roadway is lined with concrete barriers in places, motorists had no place to pull off and let the pursuing cars pass, he said.

Jessup said his office would issue a full statement on the outcome the investigation.

"We're not going to hide anything," he said.

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405

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