A 34-year-old man with a beginner's permit crashed into two North Charleston police cruisers during a high-speed pursuit Saturday morning in which officers mistakenly held the wrong motorists at gunpoint, according to an incident report.
The man who police said actually led officers on the chase, Johnathan Clayton of Fairwind Drive, was arrested after the ordeal. He faces charges of giving false information to police, violating his beginner's permit and failing to stop for blue lights.
Clayton remained in jail Monday in lieu of $10,000 bail.
His criminal convictions date to 1997 and include possessing cocaine and unlawfully carrying a pistol.
The North Charleston police report stated that confusion prompted officers to point their guns at the wrong car. The car, like the suspect's, was white, and it had collided with the suspect's sedan as the pursuit ended. Its occupants suffered minor injuries in the crash.
"Once it was determined this was not the vehicle," police spokesman Spencer Pryor said, "the occupants were released and an apology made by the officers."
The ordeal began when an officer saw Clayton's Lexus sedan after 1 a.m. on Remount Road with one of its license-plate lights out, so the officer stopped the car at Pappy's Restaurant on Carolyn Street in Hanahan, the report stated.
The driver gave the officer valid proof of insurance but said he didn't have a driver's license with him, according to the report. Instead he gave the officer the name and date of birth of someone else, who happened to be wanted for arrest.
The driver started rolling up his window when the officer was talking with him, so the policeman grabbed the glass and removed it from its track, the report stated.
As the driver tried to put the car in gear, the officer fired a Taser into the man's shoulder, according to the report. The officer noted the driver's size: 6-feet-7 and 325 pounds.
After lunging forward, the Lexus maneuvered in reverse between police cars, then led police at high speeds on several streets before it hit a tire-piercing strip on Rivers Avenue. It circled in an apartment complex parking lot and continued down Fairwind Drive, where Clayton lives.
Before it stopped, officers said, the white Lexus hit two police cruisers and what they called a "civilian" vehicle, a white 2000 Toyota Camry.
At that point, the officers became confused, the report stated.
Because of the similarities between the suspect's white Lexus and the white Toyota, and because a police vehicle involved in the pursuit was "essentially blocking (the Lexus) from view," officers pointed their guns at the Toyota.
Patrolman James Ryan, who had conducted the original traffic stop, held his pistol about four feet from the Toyota's driver's side.
The officers soon caught their mistake and apologized. Paramedics treated the Toyota's occupants for their injuries at the scene.
Meanwhile, another police officer ordered Clayton out of the Lexus. He was handcuffed without further struggle.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.