DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. -- A 10-year-old and a man were killed in a car crash that ended a police chase on the evening of February 3.
On Tuesday, Douglas County Sheriff's officials released details regarding the fatal wreck resulting from a police chase on Thornton Road last Saturday night.
Here is what they say happened:
At 7:45 Saturday evening, Douglas County Sheriff's deputies noted a gray 2006 Infiniti M35 headed southbound on Thornton Road near Westfork Boulevard doing 69 mph in a 45 mph zone.
The deputy initially pulled the Infiniti over, with both cars pulling into the Quik Trip gas station at the intersection of Thornton and Maxham roads. As the deputy began to get out of his car, the Infiniti sped off, pulling recklessly back onto southbound Thornton Road. The deputy took off in pursuit.
Officials said the pursuit was allowed to continue for about three miles because the Infiniti was driving in a reckless and dangerous manner and because the deputy said the driver was the only person in the car.
The Infiniti continued to weave in and out of traffic on Thornton Road aggressively and at a high rate of speed. After it passed Interstate 20, the Infiniti lost one of its rear wheels.
Officials said the deputy was authorized at that point to use a PIT maneuver to end the pursuit. Before the deputy could do this, however, the Infiniti went through a red light and hit a semi that was crossing the roadway at the intersection of Thornton Road and Riverside Parkway. As it struck the semi, the Infiniti went underneath the semi and caught fire as it came to rest on the other side.
At that point, pursuing deputies realized that there were four other people in the car -- all children under the age of 16. The driver, identified as 30-year-old Billy Frazier of Atlanta, and the front seat passenger, 10-year-old Quemontae Frazier, were killed in the wreck. Deputies were able to remove the other three children -- ages 6, 5 and 3 -- from the burning car and put out the fire. None of the kids were wearing seatbelts.
That is the Douglas County Sheriff's version of events.
"The car literally went underneath the trailer and then came out the other side," said Douglas County Sheriff Jesse Hambrick. "It was a very bad accident."
Frazier was driving on a suspended license and was on active probation at the time of the wreck.
"In this particular incident, had the deputy realized that there were three children in this car, and the violations were for speeding and reckless driving, we would have very likely terminated this pursuit and not continued it," Hambrick said.
Investigators said Frazier was also in possession of a stolen handgun and a large quantity of prescription medications, MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine and crack cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana that he intended to distribute.
The surviving children were taken to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite with critical injuries.
The pursuit policy for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office specifically notes that a pursuit can only take place when there is a clear danger to the community, and one that is not outweighed by any danger that would come from the pursuit.
The policy says, in part:
Deputies will not begin and are expected to terminate a pursuit whenever the risk of his life or an innocent citizen outweighs the danger to the community, if the suspect is not immediately apprehended.
Deputies driving official unmarked vehicles, equipped with emergency lights and siren, may engage in a pursuit only when suspect(s) have committed or have attempted to commit a serious felony, or there is an immediate and direct threat to life. Whenever a properly marked vehicle joins the pursuit, the unmarked vehicle will withdraw, unless authorized to remain in pursuit by the shift commander, or other person having equal or greater rank, due to unusual circumstances.
A pursuit can only be authorized by a superior officer. In this particular case, it does appear that all applicable policies and procedures were followed.