I-TEAM: New details on deadly police chase that killed mother of 2
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The ITEAM uncovered new information about a deadly police chase that killed a local mother of two.
Willie Sturdivant is the driver who fled deputies and hit Irvin. He’s now in jail, charged with felony murder.
Now, Ashley’s family is asking why the chase happened in the first place, and why - to this day - they’ve never heard from law enforcement about the chase that killed their daughter and sister.
Meanwhile, the I-TEAM is uncovering new information about the crime.
Everything started around 5:21 p.m. on November 2, 2022, according to a report from Georgia State Patrol. That’s when the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from GSP after RCSO attempted to stop Sturdivant.
We now know the initial traffic stop was because a deputy spotted Sturdivant violating the hands-free law on Olive Road near Cooney Circle.
The report says the deputy spotted the driver “holding a cell phone with both hands...apparently texting and driving.” He then ignored the traffic stop from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and sped off.
Sturdivant traveled on Olive Road and turned south onto Milledgeville Road going through several busy intersections and continued onto Milledgeville Road before turning west on to Gordon Highway in rush hour traffic.
The report says the driver failed to stop for a red light on Gordon Highway and Thomas Lane, striking a white Chevy Impala traveling southbound on Thomas Lane.
The driver of that car was 33-year-old Irvin.
GSP tells the I-TEAM the vehicle Sturdivant was driving was registered to a woman in North Augusta. That means deputies didn’t know about his outstanding warrants until after the crash.
He was being pulled over for a cell phone.
Meanwhile, Ashley’s younger sister Brittany Irvin, a local teacher, drove to the scene.
“And I was like, ‘is she dead?’ Cause I saw how the car was, and he said, ‘Ma’am, they took her to AU’.”
Brittany rushed to get Ashley’s two daughters to the ER, and within minutes, they got hte devastating news. “They told us that she was gone. It was - I’ve never felt that feeling before. It was hard. Just to see my nieces that they’re my parents. It was…it was really hard.”
A short three-minute drive changed everything. Ashley never made it to get the package: t-shirts for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday - a holiday she didn’t live to see.
What’s more, the I-TEAM uncovered Ashley’s family never knew the cause of the accident until it was on the news that night.
“Nobody told my parents. Nobody told me. Nobody told anybody that it was a police chase. We didn’t find out until it was on the internet,” explained Brittany.
The family tells us nearly a month after the chase and crash, they’ve still never heard from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office or the Georgia State Patrol – who the sheriff’s office later asked to investigate the crash.
The only person they heard from at the time of this story was the coroner who pronounced Ashley dead.
“This was just so soon. So senseless. It could have been prevented,” Brittany stressed.
Brittany went from being the youngest child to the *only child* in eight months.
Her family lost her older brother over a medical issue, and now her older sister was gone over a chase that began with a violation of the Georgia hands-free law.
The Governor’s Office of Highway Safety says driving while using a cell phone is punishable by just a $50 fine.
Now, Brittany is in the process of adopting Ashley’s daughters and carrying on her legacy.
“If I had to describe my sister, I would say funny, hardworking, and independent. She’s a very funny girl. "
The I-TEAM also obtained an incident report that shows Sturdivant wasn’t just running from police to avoid outstanding warrants; he was also driving under the influence and driving without a license.
The report reads after the crash, “Sturdivant’s vehicle smelled strongly of the odor of burnt marijuana. A small plastic bag with marijuana residue was found in the vehicle along with a partially smoked marijuana cigarette.”
The I-TEAM reached out four times to the sheriff’s office to ask for an interview or to comment. A spokesperson referred us to the Georgia State Patrol.
We also requested the pursuit policy from Richmond County. The sheriff’s office policy reads “when it is necessary to conduct a pursuit--deputies must exercise due regard for the safety of all persons and the decision to pursue rests solely with the deputy. Caution will be used when approaching populated areas, high traffic areas, or rush hour periods.”
We found these standards all fall under Georgia State Law.
News12 Reporter Will Rioux: “Do you feel like innocent lives are in danger when these police pursuits happen?”
Brittany Irvin: " Yes. My sister’s life was very innocent.”
“There’s more people killed in high-speed chases, then tornadoes, floods, hurricanes in lightning combined,” explained Tim Morgan. He has 37 years of law enforcement experience under his belt in South Carolina.
“There has to be a better way of addressing high-speed pursuits. It’s a necessary evil that they exist. There is no good pursuit, like there’s no good war.”
Morgan says technology is the missing piece to making police pursuits safer.
He created ‘Pursuit Alert’ - a digital app that can be used to alert drivers of a police chase nearby.
When an officer initiates a pursuit, all they have to do is press the yellow button on this device that is connected to the patrol car’s laptop.
The app will send a push notification and alarm to your phone within 2 seconds.
Morgan says it’s being used in 23 agencies and will soon be on Google Maps and Waze.
Will Rioux: “Do you think this could save lives?”
Tim Morgan: “There’s no doubt in my mind that, that this will save lives and make a difference.”
A difference that could keep families like the Irvins from losing an innocent loved one.
“I can’t even explain this to you. Like it seems...it feels like you just don’t have a heart anymore,” cried Brittany. “We need to see some change. Hopefully, they can hear my voice, and somebody can do something about it.”
The I-TEAM asked the Richmond County Sheriff’s office if the officer who initiated the chase was undergoing any type of review. They referred all questions to Georgia State Patrol. The state patrol referred us back to the sheriff’s office, saying they are only investigating the crash.
As for Sturdivant, he was wanted in multiple states for multiple felony warrants at the time he sped off. Again, the Georgia State Patrol confirmed to the I-TEAM deputies had no idea about the outstanding warrants until after the deadly chase was over.
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