Charleston County deputies’ high-speed chase ends as communications fade near Orangeburg

The Lincoln Navigator that Charleston County Sheriff’s Office deputies chased on Monday from Charleston nearly to Orangeburg speeds southward on U.S. Highway 17 near the Ashley River bridge. Buy this photo

Charleston County deputies chased a drug suspect so far out of their jurisdiction Monday night that supervisors resorted to cellphones to keep up to speed with the pursuit.

As the chase stretched to 75 miles and nearly 50 minutes, the deputies’ communications became garbled.

“We may go comms out,” said a deputy, referring to a pending loss of radio contact. “We’re going to try to figure out what we’re going to do here.”

As the deputies neared Orangeburg on Interstate 26, a supervisor issued an ultimatum: “We’re going to have to call it if they don’t get him in the next mile.”

They didn’t. At 100 mph, the cream Lincoln Navigator and the man driving it sped off into the darkened skies near mile marker 160 northeast of Bowman.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office released a copy of the dispatch recordings Tuesday after The Post and Courier filed a Freedom of Information Act request. It depicts deputies’ attempts to end the pursuit when they twice set out spike stripes on the interstate and how others sped to catch up and join the action.

Sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Mike Stanley said late Tuesday afternoon that a report about the incident wasn’t finished, so he couldn’t answer any questions, including whether deputies had any communication problems.

The sport utility vehicle was linked to a Charleston address. Stanley said investigators had identified a suspect but had not arrested anyone. He did not know the suspect’s name, he said.

The chase started at 7:47 p.m. as narcotics agents conducting a felony drug investigation tried to stop the Lincoln at Magwood Drive and Glenn McConnell Parkway in West Ashley.

“He almost ran over one of the deputies back there as well,” a deputy said.

The Lincoln traveled down Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and reached Savannah Highway. It distanced itself from the deputies by hitting 75 mph at times toward downtown Charleston.

“He’s a good ways up ahead of us,” a deputy said. “We’re doing about 70 now.”

The Lincoln turned around in the parking lot of a Hardee’s restaurant on Spring Street and maneuvered through traffic on the Septima Clark Parkway. It headed back toward West Ashley with one deputy seconds behind and two more bringing up the rear.

From southbound Savannah Highway, the Lincoln crossed over to S.C. Highway 61. Their lights flashing and sirens wailing, unmarked sheriff’s cruisers sped down the road toward the main car involved in the pursuit.

At Ashley Hall Road, a deputy readied spikes designed to puncture tires. But the Lincoln detoured to Old Towne Road and through a residential area, later re-entering S.C. 61.

It hit 70 mph again and ran a red light at Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, catching the attention of firefighters standing outside their nearby station. It entered eastbound Interstate 526 at Paul Cantrell Boulevard, near where the ordeal began.

On I-526, deputies finally got a glimpse of the SUV’s license plate. They said a heavyset, middle-aged black man was driving.

The Lincoln reached 100 mph on the expressway and again on westbound I-26, where deputies noted every few minutes that the traffic was light and the road was dry.

A deputy threw out spikes at the connector to U.S. Highway 52, but the Lincoln avoided the trap by passing in a different lane.

A North Charleston police officer and a Highway Patrol trooper joined the effort but soon bowed out. But after miles of trying to catch up, a Charleston County deputy with a police dog took over the chase. A Dorchester County deputy followed. Maintaining about 100 mph, the Lincoln’s driver threw something through a window north of Ridgeville and later dodged another set of spikes.

As deputies reached northern Dorchester County, they started talking about losing contact with each other and the communications center in North Charleston. Dispatchers alerted troopers in Columbia and deputies in Orangeburg.

“My apologies for the intermittent radio communications,” a deputy said. “It’s going in and out because of distance.

“I’ll give it another couple miles.”

About 10 miles west of the Interstate 95 interchange, the deputies stood down. Their cruisers slowed.

The SUV continued down the highway at 100 mph.

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