Two well respected community leaders, within a 100 mile radius, have lost their lives due to high speed police chases. George County, MS Sheriff Garry Welford was killed in the line of duty July 21, 2010 as he attempted to place tire spikes on a rural county road in an effort to capture a couple who were running from the local police.
Brandy Nicole Williams, 18, and Christopher Baxter, 25, were captured within hours of running down Sheriff Welford. Williams was driving the truck. Baxter, who was dating Williams, was due in court two days before the pursuit for sentencing on a manufacturing and possession of methamphetamine. A sheriff’s deputy spotted the couple and began a chase. After striking Sheriff Welford, the couple continued to flee. After several hours and a massive manhunt that consisted of other law enforcement agencies in the region, the couple was captured in an abandoned trailer near the George County/Greene County line.
Sheriff Welford had a wife, children and grandchildren. He’d been in office since 2004 and was highly regarded in his community.
Less than three weeks later, a high school principal was killed in a car crash caused by a man who was also attempting to evade capture. Principal Donnie Rotch of T.R. Miller High School in Brewton, AL was killed instantly, as was the suspect, when their vehicles collided atop a hill on Highway 31 in Bretwon. It’s believed the suspect, 29 year old Martin Reid, was driving at speeds of up to 130 mph. Principal Miller was returning home from a meeting.
He too was a husband and father and his community has only begun the grieving process.
These two cases, each occurring so close together and in such close physical proximity, highlight the dangers in high speed police chases. The time has come to change policies. While no one questions the dedication of law enforcement agencies around the country, there must be another solution that will allow these officials to capture suspects without endangering the lives of those in the communities they serve. It’s important to note that this in no way questions the loyalties, integrity and ethics of any officer whose only desire is to serve, but it’s time for policy makers to recognize they’re putting the officers’ lives at stake, too.
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know what the solution is, but with so much advanced technology available, there are surely upgrades even the smallest rural areas can afford to include in their arsenals that will allow them to avoid these high speed chases. The tragedy is two community leaders have lost their lives because of three people who chose to break the law. The young woman who allegedly was driving the truck that struck Sheriff Welford has essentially annihilated her own life. The man she is/was seeing had been making wrong choices for a very long time and now a 19 year old girl who opted to “follow love” could realistically face the death penalty in Mississippi. As mentioned, the suspect in the Principal Rotch case was killed on impact as well.