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Police Video Shows Chase Continued Until Crash

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STATESVILLE, N.C. — A Troutman police officer chased astolen car until it crashed at about 100 mph and killed sevenIredell County teenagers inside, according to videotape released bypolice.

The tape, which shows the view from a camera installed insidethe patrolman's car, was released Wednesday by authorities afterthe district attorney showed it to the parent of one victim.

The video raises questions about a statement shortly after thewreck by Troutman Police Chief Eric Henderson, who said the officerbacked off his pursuit of the 2001 Dodge Intrepid before it crashedDec. 29.

In an interview Thursday, Henderson said the tape supported hiscontention that the pursuing officer's patrol car fell fartherbehind the Intrepid in the seconds before the crash, meaning theofficer was not maintaining a hot pursuit.

"He was further back," Henderson said. "There's a greaterdistance between them than at first."

The nighttime video lasts about two minutes. The camera wasactivated when Troutman Police Officer Keith Bills turned on hisblue lights.

Bills began his chase after he saw a passing violation by thecar. The speed of the patrol car is 41 mph. About 1-1/2 minutes later,the speed increased to 89 mph and hit 100 mph eight seconds later.When the Intrepid begins to skid off the road, the speed displayedon the tape was 97 mph.

All seven teens in the car died instantly: the driver, JohnLindsey Myers Jr., 15; Antoinette Griffin, 13; Dominique Hurtt, 15;Antonio Miller, 13; Quentin Reed, 18; Erica Stevenson, 15, andDavid Summers III, 14.

The Intrepid was reported stolen the morning after the accident.The car had a temporary "doughnut" spare tire on the right rear.

Henderson has said Bills followed the department's pursuitpolicy. The policy allows officers discretion to initiate andcontinue a pursuit, as long as they notify a supervisor andconsider factors such as traffic, the time of day and theseriousness of the offense.

The Highway Patrol has said the video shows no criminalwrongdoing, such as reckless driving or hitting the Intrepid. Thevideo shows Bills staying far enough back that only the Intrepid'stail lights can be seen.

All seven victims were black, and some in Statesville andTroutman have questioned whether the pursuit was justified. ACharlotte community activist has called for an independentinvestigation of the crash.

Sandra Miller, mother of a victim, has said she believed thepolice ran the car off the road. Miller viewed the videotapeTuesday at the district attorney's office; it does not show anycontact between Bills' patrol car and the Intrepid.

Police released the video a day after an audiotape of radioconversations between the officer and a dispatcher were madepublic.

In the audiotape, Bills called in to the communications centerat 12:05 a.m. on Dec. 29 with a vehicle registration request forthe Intrepid.

After a dispatcher told Bills there were no warrants out on theplate number, the officer said he planned to stop the vehicle. Thenhe said it wouldn't stop.

Mooresville police have said they believe Reed was involved in ahome-invasion robbery two hours before the wreck.

District Attorney Gary Frank said he was still conducting hisreview, but no longer needed to keep the tape private afteroffering to show it to the teenagers' parents.

In some police departments, including Charlotte-Mecklenburgpolice, officers do not have discretion to pursue for trafficviolations because pursuits can endanger civilians, officers andsuspects who are fleeing.

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