9 investigates: Troopers use PIT maneuvers to stop dangerous drivers

By: Allison Latos

Updated:

It's been nearly six years since Ellen Tucker's sister, Donna Deitz, and former Belmont Mayor Kevin Loftin were killed when a driver running from police crashed into their car.

“She had decades of life left in her," Tucker said.

In police chases across the Charlotte area, Channel 9 cameras captured officers trying to catch drivers by forcing them to a spinning stop with a pursuit intervention technique known as a PIT maneuver.

However, in some cases, that effort ends tragically.

In March, North Carolina Trooper D.A. Motsinger used a PIT maneuver to stop a fleeing minivan full of teenagers in Anson County, but the van flipped several times, and two 15-year-old girls were killed.

The attorney general's office is investigating and the Anson County district attorney has not decided whether Motsinger will face any charges.

Anchor Allison Latos researched how often troopers use PIT maneuvers.

This year, the North Carolina Highway Patrol deployed the tactic 94 times, ending the pursuit 92 times.

In South Carolina, troopers used the tactic 36 times.

Latos visited McEntire Joint National Guard base where troopers in South Carolina train how to use that pursuit technique, and officials gave Channel 9 exclusive access.

“You have to match your speed up to that vehicle and there is a certain spot we will hit the vehicle," South Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Beres said.

Beres said all new troopers learn the technique in the academy and the patrol considers it a high-risk traffic stop.

"At 55 miles per hour, that vehicle is going to spin like it is on ice," Beres said.

That's why troopers must consider several factors.

"Whether it's the conditions of the roadway, the width of the roadway, the weather, pedestrian traffic, other traffic around him," Beres said. "A lot of factors are weighed before any maneuver is done."

Tucker thinks of her sister every time she hears of a chase.

She prays that drivers realize there's never a good reason to run.

“It is really not worth it,” Tucker said.  "You could end up killing people you don't even know and later bearing the guilt of that for the rest of your life."

In October, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol changed its chase policy.

Now, troopers cannot conduct PIT maneuvers if they're driving over 55 miles per hour.

Plus, only troopers or the local police agency will get involved in a chase so there are fewer cruisers in the middle of innocent drivers.

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