Local News

Franklin County Sheriff Orders Temporary Halt to Chases

Posted December 8, 2007 6:44 p.m. EST
Updated December 9, 2007 8:18 a.m. EST

— Franklin County Sheriff Pat Green ordered a temporary ban on pursuits, a week after a Franklin County police chase ended with a head-on collision that killed the suspect and two sisters.

"Each police chief or sheriff, if they're responsible, after last Saturday, should be reviewing their chase policies," Green said.

James Overton, a family friend of the two girls killed, said perhaps the only good that can come from Saturday's crash is if law enforcement agencies change their pursuit policies.

North Carolina does not have a state standard for police chases, so each department must make up its own. The fatal crash has already prompted change by Franklin County law enforcement agencies.

Franklinton town leaders said they will hire an independent consultant to review its policies. The department already bans high-speed chases – those taking place at 20 mph or more over the speed limit.

Green instructed deputies not to chase non-violent criminals while Brennan Consultant Group reviews the agency's overall policies. The Sheriff's Office hired the consultant a month before the crash.

On Dec. 1, Franklinton Police Officer Michael Dunlap chased Guy Christopher Ayscue at speeds reaching 90 miles an hour, crossing into Granville County before Ayscue slammed into a car on U.S. Highway 15, killing sisters Linsay and Maggie Lunsford.

James Overton, a family friend of the Lunsfords, said the chase should have been called off long before the wreck for a variety of reasons: "Not enough room on the road. There's too many people traveling. It's a Saturday, Christmas parades, Christmas shopping."

Green, who has been involved in two chases himself, said officers always have to make a judgment call.

"Everything's fine as long as they make the arrest. (You) pat them on the back, (say) good job, whether they violate policy or not," he said. "But the moment they violate policy and something bad happens, then it's a horse of a different color."

Before the ban, Green said his department's policy told deputies not to go 15 mph over the posted speed limit.

“That's not very fast. And if you are chasing a suspect who is running 75 or 80 [mph], with the tunnel vision setting in and the adrenaline settling in, the officer's going to continue the pursuit,” he said.

That inclination to go fast in chases is why Green said he wants his deputies to know they do not always have to make an arrest on the spot.

“Just because they get away and we can't chase them doesn't mean we can't solve it and arrest them at a later date,” he said.

Overton said that idea seems to be sound advice.

"Why make something progressively worse if you don't have to?" he asked.

Brennan Consultant Group was expected to complete its review of the Franklin Sheriff's Office's chase procedures and makes its recommendations within the next two months.

Donations for the Lunsford family may be sent to:

Lunsford Family
c/o Stem United Methodist Church
P.O. Box 10
Stem, NC 27581