Fatal Chase in Greenville County

March 2, 2016

A runaway suspect in Greenville County fatally struck a pickup truck and then continued on without even slowing down; authorities finally apprehended the suspect in Anderson County.

The chase began when sheriff’s deputies attempted to serve outstanding warrants on 25-year-old Dexter Reeves at his residence on South Florida Avenue in Powdersville. Mr. Reeves, who was sitting in his car at the time, immediately fled the scene as deputies approached. The chase continued onto Highway 81 and then onto Highway 153. At the intersection of these two roadways, Mr. Reeves collided with a pickup truck driven by 62-year-old Stephen Burnett, of Easley; he was pronounced dead at the scene and officials ruled his death a homicide.

After a brief medical evaluation, Mr. Reeves was booked into the Greenville County Detention Center on charges of domestic violence, burglary, and abandoning a child under 16. Additional charges related to the crash are pending.

High Speed Police Chase

As early as 1990, the United States Department of Justice called high-speed chases “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities” and strongly advised state and local law enforcement agencies to either end the practice entirely or at least limit it to extraordinary circumstances. But, twenty-five years later, there are more innocent bystanders killed annually as reckless pursuits continue almost unabated.

Most cities give officers almost unlimited discretion in these situations, and juries hardly ever second-guess the choices that these officers make, a point that is illustrated by recent high-profile incidents in Miami and Ferguson.

Overall, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that about 330 people per year are killed in high-speed police chases, a figure that is almost certainly understated. An analysis by a national newspaper found that many incidents are not counted in the total, such as the high-speed pursuit of a 10-year-old boy in a pickup truck at speeds that exceeded 80 mph; the boy eventually struck a tree, killing both himself and his seven-year-old passenger.

Proving Negligence in a Police Chase

At its core, negligence involves the intentional disregard of a known danger, at least on some level. Most drivers know that they should not speed, but they do it anyway, because they consider the risk only theoretical and/or assign their schedules a higher priority than the safety of other motorists.

A police chase is no different. Officers know that chases are dangerous, but they engage in them anyway because they believe that “getting the bad guy” outweighs the risk to others. There are basically two approaches to establish this negligence on a practical level:

  • Policy Violation: The South Carolina Department of Public Safety permits high-speed chases only if “only when the necessity of the apprehension of a suspect outweighs the risks created by the pursuit.” That policy is vague and officer-friendly, but at least it outlines the balancing test involved in these decisions.
  • Extreme Recklessness: Sometimes, the scales are definitely out of balance, such as the high-speed chase of a 10-year-old outlined above.

Injured victims in a high-speed police chase are entitled to compensation for their economic and noneconomic losses.

Reach Out to an Assertive Attorney

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