Chief: Officer Appeared to Follow Policy in Fatal Chase
Posted December 2, 2007 6:52 p.m. EST
Updated December 2, 2007 11:57 p.m. EST
Franklinton, N.C. — Franklinton Police Chief Ray Gilliam said Sunday it appeared policy was properly followed in a high-speed police chase and crash that killed three people. Officials were still investigating.
The 13-mile chase started Saturday afternoon in Franklinton on N.C. Highway 56 and proceeded north on U.S. Highway 15 near Creedmoor into Granville County – where it ended.
Franklinton police officer Michael Dunlap observed Guy Christopher Ayscue, 38, of Henderson, driving very erratically in a Pontiac, according to police. Dunlap tried to stop Ayscue using his lights and siren, but Ayscue drove off, and Dunlap pursued. (Listen to officer's radio traffic during the chase.)
“The policy we have in place, the officer has the discretion to pursue an individual if a felony offense has occurred," Gilliam said.
When Dunlap signaled for Ayscue to pull over and he refused – causing a chase – a felony occurred.
Surveillance video released Sunday from a Franklinton convenience store on N.C. Highway 56 showed Ayscue speeding through a stoplight on the wrong side of the road and Dunlap giving chase. For 13 miles, Gilliam said Dunlap stayed on Ayscue's trail.
“The vehicle came into Franklinton at a high rate of speed, driving very carelessly and erratic,” Gilliam said.
Calls between emergency dispatch and an officer detailed how Ayscue traveled directly into oncoming traffic at least three times at high speeds.
“Black Mercedes off the road, not sure if they’re OK or not,” the officer said.
“10-4. Black Mercedes off the roadway. We’ll notify Granville County,” a dispatcher responded.
One of the close calls was with a North Carolina senator from the area. Doug Berger was riding with his son, Justus, when the chase came right at them.
“It is very scary. You have the sense that this is it and your life is about to end when you see something like that,” Berger said.
Justus turned the car into a ditch just in time to save their lives, Berger said.
Sisters Linsay Lunsford, 18, and Maggie Lunsford, 9, were not as lucky.
“Suspect vehicle and another vehicle head-on collision,” an officer is heard saying in police radio traffic. “I have [highway patrol] out with them at this time. Please notify 18-01 at this time.”
Ayscue was traveling north on U.S. Highway 15 and went to pass another vehicle in a no-passing zone when he hit a 1999 Kia head-on, Gilliam said. The Kia was carrying Linsay and Maggie.
They, along with Ayscue, were killed in the fiery collision. Police estimate that Ayscue was traveling 90 mph at the time of the crash.
Ayscue had been in trouble before. He got off parole just two months before Saturday's accident. His lengthy criminal record included alcohol and drug infractions. He was also facing charges of speeding.
In six of the past 10 years, Ayscue has either been in jail or on parole.
Ayscue's family members declined to be interviewed on camera Sunday, but said their hearts went out to the victims' family during this "terrible tragedy."
The sisters were driving to their father's house after a shopping trip at Wal-Mart. They were two of six children in their family.
Linsay was a student at UNC-Greensboro and was studying to become a teacher. Maggie, a fourth-grader at Mount Energy Elementary School, won a trophy at a karate tournament earlier in the day Saturday.
The tragic outcome has some questioning whether Dunlap should have continued the chase as long as he did.
“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 is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into the chase and crash.