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Authorities identify victims, suspects in deadly Butts County wreck that followed pursuit

Four people died in a head-on crash on Georgia 36. One of the vehicles had been traveling at up to 110 mph before the crash.

BUTTS COUNTY, Ga. — The Georgia State Patrol has identified the victims in a deadly Friday night head-on crash that followed a pursuit in Butts County.

The crash was between a Chevrolet Impala and a Chevrolet pick-up truck on Georgia Highway 36. Two of the passengers in the truck, 72-year-old Judy Martin and 76-year-old Sandra Bowden, both from Covington were killed. They were both seated in the rear seats of the truck.

The two passengers in the Impala, 25-year-old Ebony Young of Savannah and 26-year-old Sukquawn Hayes from Garden City were also killed in the crash.

The driver of the truck, 79-year-old Thomas Bowden from Covington was transported to Navicent Health in Macon in critical condition. His front-seat passenger, 76-year-old Ronald Martin from Covington was transported to Atlanta Medical Center in stable condition. 

The driver of the Impala, 23-year-old Shikym Jenkins from Garden City, was transported to Atlanta Medical Center in critical condition.

According to Butts County Sheriff Gary Long, the pursuit began when Monroe County deputies attempted to stop the Impala on Interstate 75.

Credit: Chatham County Sheriff's Office
The driver of the Impala, 23-year-old Shikym Jenkins of Garden City, GA (left), is in critical condition; 25-year-old Ebony Young of Savannah and 26-year-old Sukquawn Hayes were both killed on impact.

The Georgia State Patrol said that the Impala's driver initially pulled his car over, but as the Monroe County deputy stepped out of his cruiser and walked toward the car, the Impala drove off.

RELATED: 4 dead, several injured in wreck following pursuit

Monroe County deputies pursued the Impala until they reached the 198-mile marker. At that point, the deputies lost sight of the Impala.

According to Long, a Butts County Sheriff's deputy responding to the area in response to the Monroe County chase was on Georgia Highway 36 westbound when the Impala passed him heading eastward in the westbound lane, nearly striking the Butts County deputy head-on.

Long said the Impala was going in excess of 110 mph when it passed his deputy. By the time the deputy could turn around, Long said, the Impala was out of sight.

According to the GSP, as the Impala's driver was trying to go through a curve in the highway, he ran off the right shoulder and over-corrected, crossing into the westbound lane of Georgia 36. That's where the Impala hit the pick-up truck head-on.

The GSP report said that the Impala came to rest on the north shoulder of Georgia 36, while the truck spun and stopped in the westbound lane of the roadway.

According to Long, Jenkins has outstanding warrants out of Chatham County. Hayes was also wanted in Chatham County, Long said. He had a loaded pistol in his hand when the crash occurred and died on impact.

Long said that Young also died on impact. She was sentenced in December 2018 to six years in state prison for possession of methamphetamines, possession of marijuana and felony fleeing law enforcement.

RELATED: Butts County Sheriff says his department will always chase suspects who flee

"As I see more innocent people killed at the hands of criminals released back into society under the reform, instead of serving their sentence, I can only hope that it would have our State legislators rethinking this horrible criminal justice reform," Long said. "If she was where the judge had sent her these innocent people might still be alive."

Long emphasized that his deputy was not pursuing the Impala at the time of the crash.

"The Suspect Vehicle lost Law Enforcement and 6 miles later, was still running 100 plus miles per hour and nearly killed my deputy, as they were traveling in his lane of travel," Long said. "The vehicle WAS NOT being pursued by law enforcement at that time."

In mid-August, following a chase and capture on Interstate 75, Butts County deputies captured a pair of armed robbers after what was initially thought to be a traffic stop.

RELATED: One year later: Pain hasn't subsided for family of 3 killed on way to church

In a Facebook post following that apprehension, Long said that his agency would always chase suspects who flee.

"If we did things like a lot of agencies and canceled this pursuit because it was a speeding violation, we would have let two, violent armed robbery perpetrators go," Sheriff Long posted.

Hundreds of people posting to the Butts County Facebook page at the time agreed with Long.

Other police agencies have differing views on chases and what may result.

"Not a day goes by without me thinking about my mom and my kids," Joi Partridge told 11Alive News.

Partridge lost her mother and two children more than two and a half years ago when law enforcement officers chased a man suspected of stealing a Chevrolet Suburban before coming to a tragic end in a southwest Atlanta neighborhood.

The Chevrolet crashed into the Partridge family's car as they were driving to church.

The family's attorney, Christopher Chestnut, says that high-speed chases, simply for property crimes and traffic violations, too often put innocent lives at risk.

"We have a family that has been wiped out over a Chevrolet Suburban," he said.

State Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro) introduced a bill (SB 63) during the last General Assembly session, which would have made it illegal for law enforcement to pursue someone unless they had reason to believe the suspect had committed or was in the process of committing certain crimes.

RELATED: Senate eyeing bill that would change police pursuit policy across Georgia

More specifically, the measure would force the officer to break off pursuit unless the officer had probable cause that the suspect had committed a crime such as murder, armed robbery or kidnapping.

However, the bill never made it to the floor for a vote.