CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. -- A terrifying situation on Interstate 285 could have turned tragic if it weren't for the quick thinking of a local police chief.
Fairburn Interim Chief Vernal Sutherland was driving in to work when he saw the UHaul driving the wrong way during rush hour traffic. He said he knew he had to stop it.
“That’s what was rushing through me – the knowledge that this guy could create a really serious problem for someone,” said Sutherland.
After calling 911, Sutherland slowed down to follow the wrong-way driver from the opposite side of 285. Seconds later, the UHaul hit another driver head-on.
“At that time, the adrenaline is going,” he said. “I have to get over the wall.”
His first thought was helping the driver who was injured in the crash. That’s when the UHaul driver tried to get away.
“He’s climbing out the window,” he said. “I’m trying to get him on the ground.”
Police say 26-year-old Aaron Yarborough was driving eastbound in the westbound lanes of I-285 at 8 am Tuesday. He hit three cars before he jumped out and tried to run.
“He notified me that he was not going to jail,” Sutherland said. “That I would have to put the Taser up if I was going to take him in.”
Sutherland said he Tased Yarborough, but he continued fighting. Sutherland got the cuffs on him right before Clayton County Police arrived.
“Fifteen, 20 seconds at the most, at least that’s how it felt to me at the time,” he said.
Despite everyone praising his quick thinking, Sutherland says he was just doing his job.
“We’re 24 hours a day,” Sutherland said. “When we see something, we have the duty to do something; to act – and that was just my duty at that time.”
He’s just thankful that it wasn’t worse.
“That was the scariest part,” he said. “For a driver to be approached by a wrong-way vehicle coming straight at them on 285, you just don’t see that every day.”
Yarborough has been charged with driving on the wrong side of the road, reckless driving, hit-and-run, and obstruction of an officer. Thankfully, the other drivers he struck are expected to recover.
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