CHARLOTTE — After Wednesday’s high-speed chase through Charlotte, many Channel 9 viewers are wondering why it took so long to end and why Charlotte-Mecklenburg police didn’t intervene sooner.
The pursuit lasted more than two hours as the driver stole four different cars.
Since Wednesday, Channel 9 has learned the driver was a burglary suspect. He stole at least four cars -- including a white truck, a gold sedan and a black SUV. Channel 9 is asking Charlotte-Mecklenburg police for the man’s identity.
Chopper 9 Skyzoom captured the moments the driver crashed two different cars during his three-hour spree. Police said that’s when they started actively chasing the suspect.
Investigators said the first three vehicles were only considered stolen property, but when the suspect stole the last vehicle, police initially didn’t know if there was someone inside. If there was, that would have been considered a carjacking or even a kidnapping.
The chase came to an end finally when the suspect crashed for the second time.
Several people, including Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Bokhari, are asking why police didn’t try to put an end to it sooner.
“Maybe it wouldn’t have gone on as long as it had if we had a policy in place that was about more aggressive, take them down,” he said.
CMPD’s pursuit policy says officers won’t chase a suspect unless someone’s life is threatened, like in a shooting or kidnapping. Chief Johnny Jennings says CMPD just updated its pursuit policy in April. He said he stands by his officers and the way they handled Wednesday’s events.
“At this point, nothing stands out to me that says we need to change the pursuit policy,” he said.
But Channel 9′s John Paul spoke to one of the chief’s former colleagues, Vicki Foster, who said the chase shows it’s time for some changes to that policy. Foster worked for CMPD for 28 years before retiring as assistant chief in 2020.
“There has to be a change in policy that says, ‘OK, his actual actions to chase him didn’t meet criteria to chase him; however, he has now done things that are dangerous to life and dangerous to the community.’ And we need to be able to shift and do that, and I think that’s where the issue lies,” Foster said.
Police said officers tried to use stop sticks but couldn’t predict the driver’s next move.
A lot of people also want to know why officers didn’t use a PIT maneuver. That’s when an officer nudges a suspect from behind, causing them to spin out.
Right now, CMPD is not allowed to use the technique -- only the state highway patrol.
(WATCH BELOW: CMPD addresses hours-long high-speed chase through Charlotte)
Balancing the benefit of chasing suspect, public safety
Attorney Paul Dickinson is representing the still-grieving parents of 29-year-old Brittany Webb who died during a chase.
“She was down in Charlotte where she had lived in the past to visit the hospital for a newborn baby of a family friend,” Dickenson said.
CMPD tried to pull over Bryan Gabriel Franklin, 21, on Jan. 3, according to the crash report.
“(A) suspect who had a traffic stop because he had a foggy license cover,” Dickinson said.
The report says Franklin took off.
“CMPD police pursued him at speeds up to 75 mph for a couple of miles in 5:30 (p.m.) afternoon heavy traffic,” the attorney said.
Investigators said Franklin was speeding north in the southbound lanes of Statesville Avenue when he collided head-on with the vehicle Webb was in.
She succumbed to her injuries a month after the crash.
Two others in the car with her survived but have a long road to recovery.
Dickinson is questioning the circumstances of that chase compared to the erratic, violent one on Wednesday.
“And what the police did yesterday, seems to be that they understood and followed the policy,” he said. “And what’s also clear about that is, when you contrast it with what happened in January of 2022, that they did not follow that policy.”
Dickinson alluded to CMPD’s pursuit policy, which the department clarified after Wednesday’s chase.
Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police President Daniel Redford said officers facing a potential pursuit have delicate, split-second decisions to make.
“It’s not the fault of the police for chasing a violent offender,” Redford said. “It’s the fault of the person that’s fleeing.”
The police department must weigh the benefits of capturing the suspect and the risk to the public, he said.
Some members of the FOP would have liked to see Harding stopped sooner during the chase Wednesday.
“I would say, ‘Yes. There’s probably a good bit who are frustrated because a lot of the times police get a lot of criticism for things outside of their control,’” he said.
Officers hands are often tied by a policy that seeks to balance safety of the public with the pursuit of reckless suspects.
“Now, can there be exceptions made to allow a pursuit?” he said. “Maybe in instances like yesterday. A little bit earlier on. Maybe that might be an option.”
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