STATESVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- A Troutman, N.C. police officer chased a stolen
car until it crashed at about 100 mph and killed seven Iredell County
teenagers inside, according to videotape released by police.
The tape, which shows the view from a camera installed inside the
patrolman's car, was released Wednesday by authorities after the
district attorney screened it for parents of the victims.
The video raises questions about a statement shortly after the wreck
by Troutman Police Chief Eric Henderson, who said the officer backed
off his pursuit of the 2001 Dodge Intrepid before it crashed Dec. 29.
In an interview Thursday, Henderson said the tape supported his
contention that the pursuing officer's patrol car fell farther behind
the Intrepid in the seconds before the crash, meaning the officer was
not maintaining a hot pursuit.
"He was further back," Henderson said. "There's a greater distance
between them than at first."
The nighttime video lasts about two minutes, beginning about 40
seconds before Troutman Police Officer Keith Bills turned on his blue
Bills began his chase after he saw a passing violation by the car.
The speed of the patrol car is 41 mph. About 1 1/2 minutes later, the
speed increased to 89 mph and hit 100 mph eight seconds later. When
the Intrepid begins to skid off the road, the speed displayed on the
tape was 97 mph.
All seven teens in the car died instantly: the driver, John Lindsey
Myers Jr., 15; Antoinette Griffin, 13; Dominique Hurtt, 15; Antonio
Miller, 13; Quentin Reed, 18; Erica Stevenson, 15, and David Summers
The Intrepid was reported stolen the morning after the accident. The
car had a temporary "doughnut" spare tire on the right rear.
Henderson has said Bills followed the department's pursuit policy.
The policy allows officers discretion to initiate and continue a
pursuit, as long as they notify a supervisor and consider factors
such as traffic, the time of day and the seriousness of the offense.
The Highway Patrol has said the video shows no criminal wrongdoing,
such as reckless driving or hitting the Intrepid. The video shows
Bills staying far enough back that only the Intrepid's tail lights
can be seen.
All seven victims were black, and some in Statesville and Troutman
have questioned whether the pursuit was justified. A Charlotte
community activist has called for an independent investigation of the
Sandra Miller, mother of a victim, has said she believed the police
ran the car off the road. Miller viewed the videotape Tuesday at the
district attorney's office; it does not show any contact between
Bills' patrol car and the Intrepid.
Police released the video a day after an audiotape of radio
conversations between the officer and a dispatcher were made public.
In the audiotape, Bills called in to the communications center at
12:05 a.m. on Dec. 29 with a vehicle registration request for the
After a dispatcher told Bills there were no warrants out on the plate
number, the officer said he planned to stop the vehicle. Then he said
it wouldn't stop.
Mooresville police have said they believe Reed was involved in a
home-invasion robbery two hours before the wreck.
District Attorney Gary Frank said he was still conducting his review,
but no longer needed to keep the tape private after offering to show
it to the teenagers' parents.
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In some police departments, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg police,
officers do not have discretion to pursue for traffic violations
because pursuits can endanger civilians, officers and suspects who