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Officer Chased Suspect at 90 mph Before Fatal Crash, Troopers Say

Posted December 4, 2007
Updated December 5, 2007

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— A Franklinton police officer who was chasing a reckless driver was traveling at an estimated 90 mph just prior to a triple-fatal crash between the car he was chasing and another car, the state Highway Patrol said Tuesday.

The report from state troopers came the same day that court records and interviews with an attorney disclosed that the man police were chasing, Guy Christopher Ayscue, 38, of Henderson, had spent most of his adult life on probation or behind bars, struggled with drugs, was prone to uncontrollable outbursts and at one point had said he heard voices.

Franklinton town policy on automobile chases states that officers are not to exceed 20 mph over posted speed limits. The limit on the section of U.S. Highway 15 in Granville County, where the crash happened Saturday, is 55 mph.

Officer Michael Dunlap braked as the crash occurred and was going about 70 mph when his town-issued Ford police cruiser went into a ditch to avoid the crashed and burning vehicles, troopers said in their report on the accidents.

Ayscue died when his car crashed head-on into a car carrying Linsay Lunsford, 18, and her 9-year-old sister Maggie, both of Stem, killing them.

In 2001, Ayscue's attorney said his client heard voices. A judge ordered a mental evaluation for Ayscue before he served a recent 4½ years in prison. Ayscue's supervised release ended two months before Dunlap saw him driving erratically through Franklinton and tried to get him to stop, beginning the chase that ended 13 miles later.

Town officials had said Sunday that they had no evidence that Dunlap had violated any policies during his pursuit.

Tuesday, however, the Highway Patrol released a report that carried results of an Accident Reconstruction Team review.

"Troopers estimate Ayscue’s vehicle speed at a minimum of 90 mph and Lunsford’s vehicle speed at 50 mph at impact. Troopers estimate Michael Dunlap was traveling at 90 mph just prior to his collision and 70 mph when he ran off of the roadway and struck a ditch bank to avoid the prior collision," Lt. Everett Clendenin said in a statement accompanying the accident reports.

The chase started Saturday afternoon in Franklinton on N.C. Highway 56.

After Dunlap saw Ayscue driving erratically in a 1988 Pontiac, police said, he  tried to stop Ayscue, using his lights and siren. Ayscue drove off, however. Investigators do not yet know why he had been driving that way or why he ran. Test results to show whether he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs may not be available for weeks, they said.

“The policy we have in place, the officer has the discretion to pursue an individual if a felony offense has occurred," Franklinton Police Chief Ray Gilliam said.

When Dunlap signaled for Ayscue to pull over and he refused, a felony occurred.

Ayscue was traveling north on U.S. Highway 15 and went to pass another vehicle in a no-passing zone when he hit the Lunsfords' 1999 Kia head-on.

Ayscue's car burst into flame, troopers said, and the Kia was partially burned. Police earlier had estimated that Ayscue was traveling 90 mph at the time of the crash, and the Highway Patrol accident reconstruction team concurred. They said it appeared that Dunlap was going at the same speed, however.

Gilliam had said Sunday it appeared policy was properly followed in the chase.

 “As of now, we have not found anything in violation or infraction of violating the policy as it stands now," Gilliam said. "But then again, we are still conducting interviews, not only with the officer but witnesses too.”

Dunlap has served less than two years on the Franklinton police force. He was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the chase and crash.

The high speed does appear to violate police policy, but Mayor Jenny Edwards said no decisions have been made about how it was handled. Town officials met Monday with their attorneys, which they said is standard procedure in any situation from which a lawsuit might result.

Edwards said the entire incident was a tragedy for all involved and a tragedy they don't want ever to happen again.

126 Comments

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  • skydiver Dec 5, 2007

    The LEO need to consider the odds that a innocent person will be killed during each chase. About 120 innocent peopled are killed each year, as the result of high speed chases. 5 LEO are killed each year in chases. If the numbers were reversed, you would have the police calling for an end to high speed chases.

  • Lightfoot3 Dec 5, 2007

    “People don't RUN unless they are hiding something.” – ltbarkley


    Maybe this thought process is why some chases are not called off, resulting in tragedy. There are PLENTY of cases of where someone ran because they panicked. Lots and lots of them. There are cases of people being pulled over for something very minor, like broken taillights or old tags and they just take off. Doesn’t mean cops should never pursue, but if the academies are teaching cops that “people don’t run unless they are hiding something” we’ll continue to have this sort of thing happen.

  • Tripwire Dec 5, 2007

    90 wow that's only 10 miles over what most people seem to be driving on I-40

  • roadtrash Dec 5, 2007

    yvette...you don't know hwat you are talking about. The officer did not break a LAW. Police policy is not law, it is an organizational policy. NC law does not prohibit the police from chasing. The supreme court has recently upheld their earlier ruling that the police would not be held responsible for chases such as these unless the actions of the officer "shock the conscious". Based on exisiting case law, the officer's actions in this chase would be supported by the supreme court.

  • ltbarkley Dec 5, 2007

    "My biggest question is where was backup and calling ahead to set spike strips before this went on for 13 miles."

    Ok lets do a little math. 90 mph/13 miles is .14444 hours which is slightly over 8 minutes. 8 minutes. Do you think this guy stayed on one road? So the officer gives chase. At this point no backup needed. Chase gets faster, the guy ain't stopping, so request backup. Lets say 4 minutes into the chase he called for backup. That leaves 4 minutes for backup in a rural area to receive the call (different county, probably different dispatchers). So, dispatcher one contacts dispatcher 2, who then contacts the nearest units. Units quickly clear the call they are on to join the pursuit. We are now down to less than 2 minutes TOPS. So rural area, less than 2 minutes to respond, GUESS where the perp is heading, GET AHEAD OF HIM, co-ordinate a roadblock/stop sticks. Do you people HONESTLY believe that is physically possible?! Sad, but it was the CRIMINALS FAULT. Period..

  • Keep and Preserve the Peace. Dec 5, 2007

    One last thing before I go,

    Commentator- You throw out simple answers to all the problems as if it is so easy to be a cop. Have you ever been in that Officer's shoes and had to make split second decisions that have no right or wrong answer only to be questionned later in the press because of the actions of a criminal. I have.

    To the Officer who right now has got to be going through a very trying time. I support you and I know a lot of others who do. Some who wear the badge and some who do not.

    "the truth is just what it simply is"

  • mvnull Dec 5, 2007

    Casp3r: "Me demonizing and you want to push blame on the cop not the criminal , how laughable is that." Unfortunately, my first comments are no longer available. The absolute cause of this was the criminal. However, that doesn't absolve the cop of making a series of bad decisions.

    The discussion shows how polarized we have become as a people. It also demonstrates that we are very dangerously close to an us vs them mentality with respect to citizens and law enforcement (as so eloquently demonstrated by Notebender1970). We are all supposed to be working on the same side -- to make our communities safer. That includes doing what we can to catch criminals, but it also means making sure that while we catch those criminals, the cops haven't made things less safe.

    I doubt that, as a society, we can look at these incidents objectively anymore. I'm reminded of the short play by Jules Feiffer from 1968, "Little Murders". Let us hope that doesn't happen here.

  • TechRescue Dec 5, 2007

    I talked to some of the responders last night. They were trying to get ahead of the guy, and in fact were set up to take out the tires a mile North of where the accident happened. However, they got started too late. My (repeat my) belief is that someone waited too long to spread the word.

    My daughter went to South Granville with the older Lunsford girl. Future Business Leaders of America, honor student. What a loss for the Lunsford family - before you multiply it by two

    I'm also amazed by the knee-jerk "don't change anything" crowd. In over twenty-five years of Fire & Rescue, I never ran a complicated call where I didn't gather the troops afterward and ask "What could we have done different? Better? Faster?". I hope and pray that LE is doing just that now - Hindsight won't help the Lunsford family, but it might keep some "size=small" coffins from being sold in the future.

  • Keep and Preserve the Peace. Dec 5, 2007

    dowhatchulike- I guess if Police could not pursue you if you choose not to stop for blue lights and siren, then you could dowhatulike!

    leo-nc- I hope you are wrong about the Chief hanging him out to dry.

    chivegas- the cop did not break the law he may (not proven) have broken agency policy but according to GS. 20-145 he did not break the law.

    twc- The Highway Patrol Driving Training is excellent. Guess what, Troopers are not the only ones who have that training.

    Derrrr- Do not take this the wrong way as I have read and agreed with a lot of things you have said now and in the past. However if the officer or agency chooses to allow the suspect escape they can and have been held liable for bad things that the suspect does after being allowed to escape.

    MajorLeagueInfidel- You are correct sir. Even now it is impossible to tell conclusively the speed of the officer's car. The MCHP only gave an estimate based on some factors that cannot be substantiated.

  • ltbarkley Dec 5, 2007

    "So if someone fails to use their turn signal, let's say for example, and then flees from an officer for whatever reason, the officer is then justified in pursuing the suspect at any speed???"

    The initial infraction shouldn't matter - People don't RUN unless they are hiding something. Maybe the person just killed someone. maybe they are drunk/high/whatever. Maybe they are transporting drugs. What should the officer do? Ignore that? Innocent people DON'T RUN.

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