SUMMERVILLE — A man who fought a police officer and stole his cruiser Friday took that squad car for a wild ride, blowing through red lights and careening through the streets as cars and trucks peeled away on either side, trying to get out of the way.
No one was seriously injured in the incident, including the suspect, who at the hospital told police he had smoked crack cocaine, according to an incident report.
A dashboard camera video released Wednesday shows the initial traffic stop, the fight with the officer and the view from the dash as the suspect drove away in the cruiser. It also captures the collision with a flatbed landscaping truck. Police said the speeds were at times well over 100 mph.
Arthur Lee Thompson, 38, of Coaxum Road in Moncks Corner is being held in the Dorchester County Detention Center on $600,000 bail set Saturday, Summerville Police Capt. Jon Rogers said.
Initial reports about the case had few details about the suspect's struggle with the officer, leading some to blame the officer for losing control of the squad car.
"The officer did everything he was supposed to do," Rogers said. The officer, who did not suffer serious injuries, put up a "fairly involved struggle," Rogers said.
Bruce Orr, a former Charleston County Sheriff's deputy who is now an author, happened to be in the area of the initial stop, near Cedar and W. 9th North streets. He saw a man fighting with an officer and his instincts kicked in. He got out of his car to help.
"My first impression was that the guy was going to kill the officer," Orr said. "This guy had no thought of leaving. He was just all about attacking the officer."
Orr, who can be seen getting out of his car and tossing off a baseball cap in the dashboard video, said he pinned the suspect between the door and the frame of the squad car.
"I hit him in the chest. His upper body fell into the vehicle. His lower legs were pinned in the door frame," Orr said. "I heard the Taser go off, and I saw the guy jerk."
According to the incident report, the officer used a Taser stun gun twice, once when the man first started fighting with him and again when the man was in the squad car. Neither time was he affected by the Taser, the report said. The man pulled the stun-gun barbs out and kept fighting.
When the suspect put the squad car into gear, the officer drew his handgun, but because there were a number of onlookers in the area, the officer put his weapon away, the report said.
Firing at the fleeing suspect was not an option, Orr said.
"He didn't shoot because there were people around," Orr said. "I don't know this officer. I'd never laid eyes on him, but he is the epitome of a well-trained police officer. He did everything right."
The brief ride through town ended about three miles from the site of the initial stop, at North Maple Street near the Elks Lodge, where the squad car plowed into a landscaping truck. The driver and a passenger in the truck suffered minor injuries. They were treated and released at a local hospital.
Thompson was rushed to Medical University Hospital, where he was unresponsive for about two hours, the police report said. When he woke up, he fought with officers at the hospital, spitting at one of them.
A toxicology report "stated Thompson tested positive for the presence of cocaine base in his blood or urine," the incident report said.
Amazingly, doctors told police Thompson had no apparent physical injuries. He calmed down at the hospital and told police he had smoked crack in the morning and was very high. He also asked if he "made the news," according to the report.
Officers took him to jail and he had a bond hearing the next day.
Thompson had an extensive criminal record that includes prior convictions for fighting police officers. He's done three stints in prison, according to John Barkley of the S.C. Department of Corrections. His last stretch began in March 2010 after getting a five-year concurrent sentence for two counts of assault on a police officer, one count of purse snatching and one count of strong-arm robbery. He was given credit for time he'd spent awaiting trial since his arrest in August 2008.
Barkley said Thompson completed his sentence and was released on April 29.