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Charges Unlikely in Chase That Led to Sergeant's Death

Posted January 12, 2007

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— A man who led police on a foot chase that resulted in the death of a Hope Mills officer likely won't be charged in connection with the officer's death, police said Friday.

Sgt. James Hardin, 35, collapsed Thursday while he and his dog chased a suspect in a heavily wooded area near Tom Starling Road and U.S. Highway 301 South, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at Cape Fear Valley Hospital of an apparent heart attack.

Ricky Wilson Jr., 23, was arrested Thursday evening at a house not far from where Hardin collapsed. He is charged with eluding arrest, driving with a revoked license, stealing gasoline and reckless driving. He also was wanted on two outstanding breaking and entering warrants.

Hope Mills Police Capt. John Smith said he was jogging through the woods with Hardin searching for a theft suspect when they came to a fence after about a mile and a half. Hardin began walking back to a nearby police cruiser when he collapsed, Smith said.

"We immediately rolled him over because he was face-down on the asphalt," Smith said. "We cleared his airway. We tried to find a pulse, (but) we couldn't."

Hardin was diagnosed with a heart murmur a few years ago, but Smith said his friend was in "outstanding" physical shape.

"He was probably one of the better shape officers of the department," Smith said.

Hope Mills Police Chief John Hodges said Hardin passed a physical a year ago, but it's not a requirement to stay on the force. The department  has begun a wellness program that will require officers to take physicals each year, he said.

Hardin's body was been sent to a medical examiner's office for an autopsy.

He is the first Hope Mills officer to die in the line of duty in more than 12 years. A black wreath hung on the driver's window of his police cruiser Friday, and the blue lightbar atop it was wrapped in black with the legend "Out of Service."

"He was definitely a man's man -- high character and integrity," Smith said.

Police said two men stole gas from a Wal-Mart at about 10 a.m.Thursday, and their car was spotted on South Main Street a few hours later. The pair bolted from the car as officers approached. One was quickly apprehended, but the second one initiated the chase that led to Hardin's death.

A 10-year veteran of the Hope Mills Police Department, Hardin was promoted to sergeant in June. He is survived by a wife and two children.

Visitation for Hardin is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Rogers and Breece Funeral Home on Ramsey Street in Fayetteville. The funeral will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Northwood Temple on Ramsey Street.
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  • thinkin out loud Jan 13, 2007

    I agree with dewpac and FiredUp2008. Apparently many of the commentators here are from the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. NC's home for bleeding heart liberals and where many laws just do not apply because of bleeding heart District Attorneys. If even 1 felony was committed during this incident, the felony murder rule should apply and he should be charges with murder.

  • sabatinom Jan 13, 2007

    Look, yes this perp probably is a habitual law breaker and deserves to be punished for crimes he is found guilty of. I would find it hard to believe a jury would convict this guy of first degree murder. Officer Hardin could have died directing traffic. This guy did not commit murder.

  • NYPD Jan 12, 2007

    You liberals make me sick. The punk should be charged with the officers death.It's a shame no one shot the punk to death when he was breaking into someone's property.

  • firedup2008 Jan 12, 2007

    Unfortunately ncst8man, you are probably wasting your time on these bleeding hearts in here. I would venture to say that none of them have even heard of the felony murder rule, and now they have, but I'm betting that doesn't change there entitled minds a bit. Didn't you know, man, that criminal is an innocent victim of a tragic childhood. It's not his fault! I've watched you folks post this mind numbing nonsense long enough. Charging his desk with murder...being God...what in the world, people? Guess what? The guy wasn't cleared of all charges. He's got a record a mile long, and the folks chasing him probably knew that already...that's why they were chasing him. Regardless of what any of you folks say, the officer fell in the line of duty. God bless him and his family during this very difficult time, and God help this country...with the way some of these folks are thinking, we're sure going to need it.

  • ncst8man1999 Jan 12, 2007

    How about this, lwilliams, it is illegal to run from the police. Period. Whether you think you are innocent or guilty, it is illegal to run. The reason that they probably were not charged is that it had to have been a felony. It is called the felony murder rule. If someone dies in the commision of a felony, it is murder. I.E. - clerk dies from heart attack while you are robbing the store -- murder. It does not have to be a police officer, and does not matter if they are convicted or not.

  • lwilliams5 Jan 12, 2007

    AMEN that no charges were pressed. What if this guy died at his desk of a heart attack? Would the DA press charges against his desk for 2nd degree murder?

    Worse yet, what if he was chasing someone that was not clearly guilty -- after all we are INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY!!! So he chases a suspect, the suspect is cleared of all charges, but is charged with the Officer's death by heart attack?

    That sets a HORRIBLE precedent -- now, if you're a suspect and an officer dies pursuing you, automatically you're guilty of his death, even if you're innocent of the crime the officer suspected you of?

    Huh? What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Now we're going to charge people for the death of an officer pursuing someone innocent until proven guilty because (s)he died in the line of duty pursuing this suspect (who -- I might remind you, is innocent until proven guilty)?

    That's a DAMNED FRIGHTENING precedent that could've been set. Imagine yourself in that situation?

  • BLA BLA BLA Jan 12, 2007

    It could've happened to anybody, you me, the person next to you.
    And lawpirate , u missed this when you were reading::

    -Quote- Ricky Wilson Jr., 23, was arrested Thursday evening at a house not far from where Hardin collapsed. He is charged with eluding arrest, driving with a revoked license, stealing gasoline and reckless driving. He also was wanted on two outstanding breaking and entering warrants.
    -unquote-

  • nascarnutnc Jan 12, 2007

    lawpirate, did you not read the story, he is being charged with the crimes that they were chasing him for. Not his fault the officer's heart gave out.

  • builder276 Jan 12, 2007

    I would think that there would not be any question on this 1. I could not imagine how that would even be a question. Officer could very well have had it sitting at his desk. to charge someone for someone elses heart attack would be like accusing him of being God, since he is the only 1 that can make that happen or not. It is a shame, but clearly not the defendents fault. The officer looked, by the pictures to be in pretty good shape. I don't know how old the pics were though.

  • lawpirate is still around Jan 12, 2007

    I think these guys should be charged with something. Come on, it's not that hard to be good and if these guys hadn't committed a crime, they wouldn't have been running from the police. We should hold all criminals responsible for the repercussions of their crimes.