A man fleeing police Tuesday wrecked and died in rural Berkeley County after trying to run over an officer and ramming a patrol car, authorities said.
St. Stephen police were chasing a GMC Sonoma pickup when the driver went off Bullhead Road A near Bonneau and hit a tree about 5:30 p.m., County Coroner Bill Salisbury said.
Ronald Smith, 53, of Bonneau, was pronounced dead at the scene, Salisbury said. Smith was not wearing a seat belt, according to the Highway Patrol.
Police Chief John Waters said Smith was a suspect in a shoplifting incident. When officers arrived at the store, witnesses described the man and the truck. An officer pulled the truck over at U.S. Highway 52 and S.C. Highway 45. The driver stopped, then tried to run the officer down as he approached, Waters said.
The officer was able to jump out of the way and was not hurt, he said.
The truck continued toward Timberland High School with police in pursuit. It rammed a patrol car twice in an attempt to force it off the road, Waters said.
The truck forced another car off the road when it crossed the center line, he said.
The truck turned onto Greentown Road, a narrow dirt road in the Francis Marion National Forest, and crashed on Bullhead Road A.Officers waited until the dust cleared to follow, then found the truck up against a tree, Waters said.
“It’s so unfortunate,” Waters said. “He put officers’ lives in danger and also citizens.”
Smith had been convicted for shoplifting several times before, as well as possession of cocaine, according to county court records.