The daughter of a Columbia, South Carolina man who was killed in a high-speed chase in July 2019 is suing the City of Columbia.
On July 14, 2019, Harris was driving a White Ford Crown Victoria southbound on King Street in Columbia when officer Malcolm Hunter saw him make an illegal turn, according to the lawsuit.
Hunter ran the plates through his database and found that the tag was inconsistent with the vehicle, according to the lawsuit — which did not mention why the system showed this.
The officer then notified dispatch and followed Harris.
Harris started accelerating and took a right on Devine Street, according to the lawsuit. Hunter continued to follow him and turned on his lights and siren near the intersection of Devine and Heidt streets in Columbia.
Harris did not stop and instead sped up, according to the lawsuit. Officer Hunter accelerated and notified dispatch he was in a high-speed chase moving toward the Rosewood area of Columbia.
Three other Columbia police officers joined in the pursuit.
The two cars were exceeding speeds of 60 mph as they zoomed through a school zone on Rosewood Drive in the Shandon area of Columbia, according to the lawsuit.
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A witness who he saw the chase in this residential area described it as a “very dangerous situation” and said the police were going 80 mph through a residential area, WIS reported.
Hunter lost sight of the Crown Victoria in the Rosewood area and officer Chelsea Bowen took over and continued the chase, according to the lawsuit.
That’s when Harris crashed into the median on Superior Street and flipped his car, the lawsuit said.
The pursuit lasted 10 minutes and stayed within the residential areas of Shandon and Rosewood.
Harris was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead due to injuries sustained in the crash. He was 46 years old.
The lawsuit claims the officer failed to abide by the City of Columbia’s police pursuit policy. It said the officers were negligent in failing to end the pursuit when speeds were unreasonable and dangerous through neighborhood areas.
Columbia attorneys J. Clarke Newton and Deyaska Spencer are representing North in the lawsuit.
SC police pursuits… a problem?
A recent Greenville News investigation found that 113 people were killed during police pursuits in South Carolina from 2009 to 2018, making the Palmetto State No. 3 in the nation for people killed in police chases during that time, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
A “vast majority” of police chases in South Carolina were “initiated over traffic violations and other nonviolent crimes, ” and one in three resulted in injury or death, according to a 2018 State newspaper article. In the article, several police experts suggested that a state-wide policy for police pursuits could help reduce the high number of deaths.
Police chases in South Carolina also result in a high number of lawsuits.
In 2018, an Easley, South Carolina woman won a $1 million settlement with the City of Liberty after her husband was killed as a bystander in a police chase by a man who was allegedly on meth.
Last year, a South Carolina mother sued the town of Irmo and her own son after her other son was killed in a police chase.
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Even the suspects who were being pursued by police at the time of their accidents have won settlements against SC police departments.
In 2014, an Orangeburg man who was injured after leading deputies on a police chase won a $260,000 settlement with the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, the Times and Democrat reported.
That man, Quinnton Jamar Henderson, has allegedly led police on two other chases since he won the lawsuit in 2014, according to the Times and Democrat.
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