16 officers, 1 cause: Sumter law enforcement agencies saturate U.S. 378 on Saturday to keep roads safe

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 7/31/18

Any seemingly simple traffic stop can escalate in moments. Deputies in Sumter County were reminded of that on Saturday.

A man who tried to escape from getting pulled over on U.S. 378 remained in life-threatening, critical condition in the …

This item is available in full to subscribers

16 officers, 1 cause: Sumter law enforcement agencies saturate U.S. 378 on Saturday to keep roads safe

Posted

Any seemingly simple traffic stop can escalate in moments. Deputies in Sumter County were reminded of that on Saturday.

A man who tried to escape from getting pulled over on U.S. 378 remained in life-threatening, critical condition in the intensive care unit of Palmetto Health Richland on Monday after he wrecked his car while leading deputies on a high-speed pursuit two days before.

The Sumter Item rode along with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office during a traffic violation saturation campaign that spread 16 officers from multiple agencies serving Sumter along U.S. 378 to hand out tickets for minor violations such as speeding, seat belts and texting while driving.

Sumter County Fire Department personnel had to use the jaws of life tool to cut the car to free the man from his vehicle after he lost control on S.C. 527, several miles after he initiated the police chase.

"We have so many traffic accidents and fatalities on 378, so all the agencies got together to try to do something to bring those totals down," said Lt. Trevor Brown, one of the sheriff's office deputies The Sumter Item rode in a patrol car with who responded to the chase. The man took responding deputies to speeds that broke 100 miles per hour about 9:30 a.m.

The sheriff's office partnered with Sumter Police Department, South Carolina Highway Patrol, South Carolina State Transport Police and Sumter City/County Dispatch for the campaign, the first of what Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis wants to do monthly in different locations, Brown said.

"We hope the community sees everyone working together and trying to bring down the accidents ... they see that we're out here trying to enforce the law. We're not trying to harass them by no means," Brown said.

According to Ken Bell, public information officer for the sheriff's office, an investigation into the pursuit and crash remains open, and there are currently no warrants for the driver.

The sheriff's office patrolled U.S. 378 on the ground and in the sky on Saturday.

"Sheriff Dennis wanted more eyes in the skies to support people on the ground," Investigator Charles Bonner said.

Bonner is one of four officers with the county department who are also pilots and fly a Cessna 172 Skyhawk to provide aerial support. The four-seat, single-engine aircraft was funded through previous drug interdictions on Interstate 95. No taxpayer money was used to fund the plane.

"We use it for search and rescue, drug interdictions and the transportation of prisoners," Bonner said before taking The Sumter Item on a fly-along. He demonstrated maneuvers such as a steep, slow turn at a low height that allows the pilot and any passengers to focus on a spot on the ground more like a helicopter. "If they take off on foot, we can supply air support and see them if they go into the woods with a bird's-eye view."