Stop In the Name of the Law

An attempt to detain an out-of-state, non-violent offender ended abruptly as the suspect collided head-on with another vehicle on Interstate 85 in Jackson County.

Sherriff’s deputies attempted to pull over 23-year-old Jonathon Holloway, of Newport News, Vir., after they discovered he was wanted on traffic ticket warrants in his home state. When Mr. Holloway failed to immediately yield, deputies pursued him at high speeds along southbound I-85 and onto Route 11. Mr. Holloway eventually looped back onto the expressway and proceeded northbound on southbound I-85. The chase ended after Mr. Holloway crashed head-on into another vehicle. Mr. Holloway died at the scene; the occupant of the other vehicle – 31-year-old Kyle Jeannings, of Alto – was rushed to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, but he is expected to survive. Deputies claim they recovered a stolen handgun and narcotics from Mr. Holloway’s vehicle.

High Speed Police Chases

Since 1979, more than 5,000 people have died in high-speed police chases, and many of them have been innocent bystanders. As far back as 1990, the Justice Department called these pursuits “the most dangerous of all ordinary police activities” and urged local law enforcement offices to restrict or eliminate dangerous pursuits, but these calls have largely fallen on deaf ears. In fact, more people are killed or injured in these incidents today than they were two decades ago.

Peace officers obviously have a responsibility to uphold the law, and they obviously cannot obey all traffic laws during these chases. However, their immunity is not absolute, and it is often up to a jury.  Two possible liability theories include:

  • Policy Violation: A few departments have permanent written policies that either forbid chases altogether or restrict them to a few specific situations, such as chases that involve violent felons. In other cases, the dispatcher or supervisor sends out a radio call along the lines of “do not pursue” or “proceed with extreme caution.” For police officers and civilians alike, a policy violation is evidence of negligence.
  • Extreme Recklessness: Pursuing an out-of-state suspect who did not pay a traffic ticket the wrong way on an expressway arguably exhibits a conscious disregard for the safety and well-being of other motorists.

Police officers may be liable for the injuries they cause during high-speed chases. For a free consultation with our aggressive personal injury attorneys, contact us at 404-JUSTICE.