Driver caught in high-speed pursuit urges policy change in Franklin County Sheriff's Office

(Franklin County Sheriff's Office)

A driver caught in the middle of a high-speed police chase is calling on the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to make changes.

This week, 10 Investigates exposed concerns about FCSO's pursuit policy.

The next day, a pedestrian was critically injured after being caught in another high-speed pursuit.

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Now, pressure is mounting on the Sheriff's Office to do something about it.

Monday night, 10TV examined a Jan. 25 high-speed pursuit by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office where a driver in a suspected stolen vehicle wouldn't stop.

Cruiser camera video captured the chase and the triple digit speeds of 105 miles an hour in a 45 mile per hour zone then 108 miles per hour.

The chase blew through traffic lights and intersections, weaving in and out of oncoming traffic.

As a school bus approached, the deputy backed off, only to be hit by an Obetz officer, also in pursuit.

"This is absurd. Especially for a stolen car. Absurd," one woman said. 10TV is not identifying this woman because she was fearful of publicly criticizing law enforcement.

The news report wasn't the first time she'd seen the January pursuit. She witnessed it first-hand and head-on.

She says she was on Alum Creek Drive when the pursuit came barreling at her.

"It was literally probably two seconds before I heard the sirens and I looked up and saw that red (Toyota) Corolla literally coming straight at me at 100 miles an hour. Straight at me — I was scared. I was scared. It scared me. I was in danger," she said. "So was everybody else on the street while they were pursuing him."

She says her heart broke to see the news Tuesday of a pedestrian hit during a separate pursuit. The car that hit him had also been reported stolen.

"This should never have happened. I could understand it if it was a shooting, murder or something else, but not for a stolen car. I feel like they should not have pursued this guy because it only perpetuated him running," she said.

In an interview last week, 10TV questioned Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin about the January chase.

Glenn McEntyre: "Does a pursuit like this endanger the public?"

Sheriff Baldwin: "Any pursuit would endanger the public. Running a stop sign, running a red light endangers the public. So any time you're chasing someone who doesn't want to stop, depending on how desperate they are, can endanger the public."

The Sheriff's Office has no restrictions on the seriousness of the crime to justify such a pursuit.

"We don't have anything written in the policy that says you cannot pursue for this violation or that violation. We leave it kind of open," Baldwin said.

Columbus Police see things differently.

"It does no good if we cause harm to someone who is standing on the side of the street. Or just coming through an intersection who doesn't hear the sirens," said Columbus Police Sgt. Chantay Boxill.

Glenn McEntyre: "Since they're so dangerous, why do it for a stolen car?"

Sheriff Baldwin: "You don't do it for a stolen car, you do it to figure out why the person ran. Multiple times there's other crimes associated with it."

Glenn McEntyre: "And if the outcome is, it was just a stolen car, is that worth it?"

Sheriff Baldwin: "It seems like you want to judge a pursuit based on the results at the end. But we don't know those results until we get the car stopped."

"I'm not buying that," said the driver caught in the chase. "That could be a guy that ran because he doesn't have a driver's license. So you've just pursued him throughout the city, put numerous people in harm's way and he just might have run because he didn't have a driver's license. I'm not buying that. No. That's not a valid reason."

The Sheriff's Office said Thursday it did not want to add to what the sheriff told 10TV last week.

At the time, he said he is always reviewing policies and looking for opportunities to improve.

The pursuit that injured the pedestrian Tuesday is still under investigation.