23-year-old victim in fatal moped crash sped off after traffic stop

by: Ken Lemon Updated:

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SHELBY, N.C. —

Investigators are waiting on toxicology reports after a 23-year-old was killed in a wreck while riding on his moped Tuesday night.

Jerik Early sped off from an officer after he was stopped in Shelby.

He ran through a stoplight at the intersection of Patton and Graham streets and hit an oncoming van, police said.

Channel 9 reporter Ken Lemon talked to family stunned by what happened.

Early pulled over about a block from when police stopped him, but for some reason he then took off and struck the van driving through the intersection.

The van flipped and landed near where Early's family members left flowers for him Wednesday.

"I wanted to show my respect,” said cousin Shea Hopper.

Hopper released balloons over the shattered glass on the sidewalk.

"I just hate to see him leave this way," Hopper said.

Police said they stopped Early because he was driving in the dark with no headlights.

Early stopped, let his passenger get off the moped and then sped off when the officer got out of his car, police said.

Police said he ran a red light about a block away.

The driver of the van had tears in her eyes when she told me she tried to avoid the collision, but it was too late.

Hopper believes Early feared a confrontation with police.

"I just think he was scared,” Hopper said. “He is never getting in trouble.  He is a good kid and I just think he was scared."

A friend who rode mopeds with Early says he was always quiet.

"I'm sorry about the loss, but it wish it would have never been like that," said Maurice Eaves.

The highway patrol is investigating the crash because a police officer was involved in the traffic stop.

Troopers said Early's passenger didn't know why he took off.

Shelby police do not classify the incident as a pursuit because they said the officer has just gotten back into his car when Early crashed and died.

"I just want all of the kids out here to think before they do something," Hopper said.