Sheriff responds to deadly chase and radio recording

By: Lynnsey Gardner Email
By: Lynnsey Gardner Email

News 12 First at Five, March 3, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- News 12 was first to bring you the radio conversation during that deadly high speed chase. In it, you can hear the deputy is called off the pursuit four minutes before the fatal crash that killed Laura Latimer on Gordon Highway and Old Savannah Road Saturday night.

Today, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength talks to News 12 about the investigation into the chase and the deputy behind the wheel.

For now, Sheriff Strength calling this a terrible tragedy and one that could've been avoided had the suspect not fled.

Investigators say 19-year-old Jamie Ray Clark was stopped Saturday for making an illegal u-turn. While Deputy Anthony Gregory was writing Clark his tickets, Clark drove off.

Nearly a full minute into the chase, here's what the deputy is told.

Sgt Steptoe: "Break it off at the state line"
Deputy Gregory:" I got his ID and everything"
Sgt Steptoe: "Then, take out the warrants. Break it off."

While we hear Deputy Gregory's supervisor in the recording, Sheriff Strength says the deputy maintains he did not. "The audio is very plain in what the supervisors told the deputy...Both officers have been interviewed and say they did not hear when their supervisor told them to break the chase off...At this point we have not found where the officer violated any policy and procedure."

Sheriff strength says the reason deputy Gregory didn't hear the call? His own patrol car sirens. "That is understandable if you've ever been inside a vehicle with a siren on, you can hear very little of any transmission on that radio so there is a good possibility the officers did not hear that."

Sheriff Strength says the county's policy is any officer can initiate a chase but, "Without a doubt if a supervisor advises a officer to break the chase off, no matter what, the officer is to break the chase off."

While internal affairs investigates Deputy Gregory's actions, the sheriff says the blame lies with the suspect. "If you sit down and take two minutes to think the cause of this accident was the decision of the suspect to flee."

Four full minutes after Deputy Gregory was told to break off the chase, Clark's blazer hit a Chevrolet Bonneville at about 85 miles an hour. Laura Latimer, a mother of three, died.

"It's a terrible tragedy." says the Sheriff. "Our hearts go out to the victim's family and also to the young kid that was fleeing. It's a terrible tragedy for him also. We wish these things did not happen, but they do."

Sheriff Strength says as of Monday (March 3), Deputy Gregory is not facing any disciplinary action. In addition to the Sheriff meeting with internal affairs today, he says he also met with his road supervisors to discuss changing the way supervisors call off deputy pursuits; by possibly coming up with another signal or method to tell a deputy on the road.

Sheriff Strength also told News 12 that Clark has given authorities conflicting reports as to why he fled. Strength says the night of the accident, Clark told a deputy that his friend was egging him on to drive off "like they do on TV." The Sheriff says when Clark was questioned today, he said his friend was trying to get him to drive off, and when he refused, his friend pushed the accelerator and the chase ensued. Sheriff Strength says deputies have been sent to South Carolina to question the friend in the car with Clark about the real story.


You must be logged in to post comments.

Username:
Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Aiken Location: aiken on Mar 5, 2008 at 09:32 AM
    To all of you who want to totally play the blame game against law enforcement for this terrible event. I invite to join the ranks of law enforcement, and walk in our shoes. Stop the could have, should have and would have's, none of us were there as the events happened. Its always easy the second guess. This 19 yoa MAN (he's not a child anymore) broke the law. He started this whole chain of events. To Floyd (03/04/08 @ 0954, i'm sorry for your lose. But this is not about the color of someones skin, it is unfair of you to attempt to make this a "race" thing.
  • by Judy Location: Augusta on Mar 5, 2008 at 07:39 AM
    The Officer should have stopped as he was told by his superviser. It was for traffic violation and not something much worse. I just believe that there are a lot of hot headed cops our there I have seen it for myself.
  • by Dynitra Hall Location: Augusta on Mar 4, 2008 at 08:43 PM
    I feel that the policeman should have stopped the chase as he was told.Also the driver is to blame, because he broke the law in more ways than one. My prayers go out to the victims family.
  • by PEACE Location: AUGUSTA on Mar 4, 2008 at 05:40 PM
    IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE RONNIE ANYMORE. HE STATED A CHASE IN OCT OF 97 HAD ENDED 10 MINS PRIOR TO A LOCAL DR'S CAR BEING HIT BY A FLEEING SUSPECT. SEVERAL POLICE CARS WAS ALSO DAMAGE IN THE SAME ACCIDENT. ACCORDING TO RONNIE THE CHASE HAD ENDED 10 MINS BEFORE THE ACCIDENT AND IN A DIFFERENT LOCATION. NOW HOW DID THEY GET THERE RONNIE, IF IT WAS NOT A CHASE. HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY RONNIE. HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE BEFORE YOU REALIZE THE PURSUIT POLICY NEEDS A CHANGE. WHEN YOUR LOVE ONE DIES, THEN YOU WILL WANT A CHANGE. UNITL IT KNOCKS ON YOUR DOOR YOU COULD CARE LESS RONNIE.
  • by Amanda Location: Augusta on Mar 4, 2008 at 01:15 PM
    I see both sides of the situation. The driver, a mere child at 19, is responsible for his own actions. Had he not fled, this tragedy would not have happened. With that said, the deputy should have made the judgement call to cease the chase. He already had the mans information, and he could have easily been captured at a later date. This could have easily been worse. what if there was a child in that car? what if it had been an entire family? Shame on the officer for continuing on a crash course that could have been prevented! My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the victim!
  • by ABC Location: SC on Mar 4, 2008 at 12:42 PM
    We need to support our law enforcement in this case. The complete blame lies on the young man who decided to run. If he would have just taken the consequences of his actions to begin with, the mother of those children would still be alive. I pray that he is given the highest possible amount of punishment for this- that includes the death penalty. Those children should not have to live without their parent because of the ignorance and drug abuse of another.
  • by Valerie Location: Langley on Mar 4, 2008 at 12:06 PM
    Yes, the kid that sped off from the deputy was to blame but so is the deputy. Normally I am supportive of law enforcement since they are there for our protection but I heard the "broadcast" on the news and heard them tell the deputy to break off the chase - he did not, therefore, I feel he is equally responsible.
  • by confused Location: north augusta on Mar 4, 2008 at 11:03 AM
    I am a very close friend of Jamie clark's family. I would have never expected this from Jamie. This was completely out of character for him. I am not taking up for Jamie in any way, I know what he did was wrong and my prayers go out to the victims family. There was a comment on this website and news channel 26's website that said that another car was involved... if there are any witnesses please email me at stephmv06@aol.com.edu again i want to stress that The family of Jamie Sends their sympathy the victims family.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 4, 2008 at 09:14 AM
    To Floyd, i would like to say that i am very sorry for yours loss and to everyone that knew and loved her. But i wanted to answer some of your questions. The young man was charged with DUI, not of alcohol but of weed, and 2 other substances which there are not field testing for like with alcohol. so there was no open container or probable cause for the deputy to search the vehicle. Also there was back up, there was another deputy behind him in the chase whose name has not been released. the deputy followed procedures and when the stg. heard that he did not call off the chase then he should have repeated it more than once when he still heard the deputy telling dispatch where he was. he had four minutes to repeat himself. the drive ran a red light to begin with and was under the influence, and did not have a license he needed to be off the road and the proper measures we taken to get him a ride however he chose to run, innocent people dont run.
  • by Terry Location: home on Mar 4, 2008 at 09:10 AM
    Who is "Rock"? Was there a white chevy impala pulled away from the scene? Did that car hit Ms. Latimer's car before Jamie's? Were there people arrested at the scene? A poster called "tonya" accidentally posted something about this on another story (the one about the woman deputy whose son killed her daughters), instead of here. You can still find it if you key in words Deputy brother sisters Terrell in search engine and scroll down to post by "tonya". Her concerns have some similarities to what poster John Savannah is saying in his post here.
  • Page:
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 newsroom@wrdw.com Fax: (803) 442-4561
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 16190707 - wrdw.com/a?a=16190707
Gray Television, Inc.