Second deputy fired in connection with high-speed crash in Lenoir

CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. — A second Caldwell County sheriff's deputy has been fired in connection with a crash where another deputy lost control of his cruiser and crashed into several cars at an auto repair shop in Lenoir.

Deputy J. Chester was fired after he lost control and crashed while responding to a call in November. The second deputy, Joshua Moses, has also been fired.

Moses was not involved in the crash, but was responding to the same call. The sheriff's office did not explain why Moses was fired.

Around 500 of people have signed a petition for Chester to get his job back, including the repair shop's owner.

"Yes, I signed it," Tim's Automotive owner Tracy Hartley said.

Channel 9 spoke with the sheriff, and he said he doesn't fire someone on a whim and that more information about what happened would be released soon, which contradicted what troopers said happened.

"I don't feel like he should have lost his job," Hartley said. "I don't feel like he was at fault for doing his job."

The speed limit along the road is 45 mph. Troopers estimated Chester was driving 80 mph.

The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office, however, said the deputy's speed was 110 mph at the time of the crash. The speedometer could be seen on the deputy's body camera.

The impact during the crash caused the cruiser to continue skidding sideways until it smashed into several other cars, knocking one into the building.

Troopers said Chester was responding to a call about an armed suspect and stolen car when he lost control and slammed into an SUV for sale at Tim's Automotive along Creekway Drive in Lenoir.

The sheriff said the deputy was heading to assist another deputy, who found an unoccupied stolen vehicle. The initial person who called 911 told dispatch the vehicle was stolen by someone who assaulted the caller with a knife, the sheriff said in a release.

Three deputies and three Lenoir police officers were closer than Chester and the primary backup officer was on scene assisting the deputy who arrived first.

"The Sheriff's Office emergency response driving policy is designed so that in all driving and related decision-making the paramount consideration is the safety of the motoring public," the sheriff said in a news release. "Therefore, the continuous exercise of due regard for the safety of others is required."

The sheriff said Chester's vehicle was not being operated within the policy of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office.

The District Attorney's Office said Friday it has not made a decision whether to press charges against  Chester. Earlier, troopers told Channel 9 the District Attorneys Office would not file charges based on the DA's statement that the trooper was "in the performance of his duties."

On Friday, the DA said they haven't received the case file and will review it.

Immediately after the crash, neighbors like Tim Davidson could be seen running to help the deputy.

"It was intense," Davidson said. "I mean, it was only a blessing from God that they didn't turn in a few more feet this way because he could have wiped us all out because we were all outside."

[ALSO READ: Driver sentenced in 2017 crash that killed firefighter responding to call]

Neighbors said they smashed one of the cruiser's windows and pulled the deputy out. Hartley told Channel 9 Monday she's glad no one was seriously hurt.

"Thank God nobody got hurt. That's all that I was worried about. Just happy nobody got hurt," Hartley said.

The business reopened the next morning.

When Channel 9's Dave Faherty asked who was responsible for paying for damages at the auto shop, the Sheriff's Office said they have insurance.

The deputy has been released from the hospital.

Officials said the North Carolina Highway Patrol and the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office are continuing to investigate the crash.

Comments on this article