Three women suspected of shoplifting backed into an officer who was chasing them on foot, then led officers on a 20-mile chase before crashing their car Wednesday, police said.
The chase started at Towne Centre in Mount Pleasant and ended in a yard in North Charleston.
The women were arrested, but their names were not released, while police checked out other leads possibly involving them, Mount Pleasant Police Maj. Stan Gragg said.
A Mount Pleasant police officer was investigating reports of thefts at several stores at the Towne Centre shopping center when she spotted three women matching the description of the suspects about 2:15 p.m. and tried to detain them.
The women knocked the officer over as they sped away in a silver car, police said.
Edward Spear, 68, of Mount Pleasant, a pretzel vendor outside the Gap store, said a police officer who typically patrols that area saw the three women sitting on a bench outside of Banana Republic, when they got up and ran off.
One of the women jumped into the driver’s seat of a car and the officer chased her, Spear said.
The officer wrestled with the driver, and two other women jumped into the car. The driver slammed the car into reverse, flinging the officer back, Spear said.
“She ended up doing a big face plant on the cement,” he said. “She came very close to getting run over.”
Local merchants treated the injured officer, including putting ice on her injuries. The officer was taken to Medical University Hospital in stable condition.
A witness who works at the Gap said she had heard that three women were shoplifting from various stores and had knocked over an officer as they tried to get away.
“From what I heard they had tons of stuff,” she said.
The store’s manager, who identified herself as Tiffany, said the three women appeared to be in their 20s and were seen throughout the shopping center Wednesday.
“An officer tried to stop them and they ran,” she said.
Victoria’s Secret was among the stores the shoplifters reportedly targeted, according to radio traffic.
The fleeing car got on Interstate 526 toward North Charleston, exited on Dorchester Road and hit a car. The suspects’ car continued to Montague Avenue and crashed on Morningside Drive near East Montague and Rivers avenues.
More than 20 squad cars from several agencies joined the chase. North Charleston officers joined the pursuit when the car entered the city limits on I-526, police spokesman Spencer Pryor said.
Allen Benware, 25, lives in the house where the car ended up against the garage. It’s off the loop from East Montague Avenue onto Rivers Avenue.
Benware said he was in his yard digging a hole near the garage about 2:30 p.m. when he was startled by the sound of sirens and what sounded like the rim of a flat tire screeching against the pavement.
A silver Malibu came careening around the loop off East Montague, appeared to lose traction, he said, and smashed through a chain-link fence around the yard. Benware said he jumped out of the way as the car crashed into his garage.
Officers from the Highway Patrol, North Charleston police, Mount Pleasant police and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office pulled up.
Two of the three women jumped out of the car but quickly stopped when officers challenged them, Benware said.
“It’s not even a story you could really make up,” Benware said after the car was towed away. “I’m glad that they didn’t have to draw their guns on the girls, because I would have been in the middle.”