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Berkeley County deputy placed on leave after video shows cruiser colliding with motorcycle during chase

Motorcycle crash with deputy

A video shows a collision between a Berkeley County deputy and a motorcyclist. File/Provided

A Berkeley County deputy has been placed on leave after colliding with a speeding motorcycle during a chase Wednesday night, resulting in a wreck that killed the rider.

Video footage, which the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office posted Thursday on YouTube, appears to show the cruiser hit the motorcycle twice during a crash that officials attributed, in part, to the rider's sharp braking. The clip does not show the deputy swerving to avoid a collision, but officials said the contact did not appear purposeful.

Robert Lee Clark Jr., 30, of Giles Drive in Goose Creek lost control after colliding with the sheriff's SUV and hit another car. He died at the scene. He was not wearing a helmet.

He had been wanted for speeding.

Marijuana also was found on his body after the wreck around midnight on South Main Street in Summerville.

Deputy James Vansant is on administrative leave as the Sheriff's Office conducts an internal review of his actions, an agency statement said, and the S.C. Highway Patrol is investigating the wreck.

The deputy's report and the agency's statement indicated that the collision was not deliberate. Sheriff's policy bars such contact during pursuits. 

"Deliberate contact between vehicles or ... ramming ... will be prohibited unless such actions are specifically authorized by a supervisor," the policy states. "Such actions may be approved only when the use of deadly force would be authorized."

In a report, Vansant said he was looking out for speeding motorists on College Park Road when he noticed the motorcycle going 66 mph in a 45-mph zone.

Clark didn't pull over for the deputy's lights and sirens. His motorcycle accelerated, the deputy reported. It made quick lane changes, slowed abruptly at times and ran red lights.

"Speeds reached ... 111 mph at times with the motorcyclist slamming on the brakes and then speeding away several times," Chief Deputy Mike Cochran added in the sheriff's statement.

The pursuit stretched over eight miles and more than five minutes to South Main Street.

At one point, the video showed the deputy's Ford SUV pulling close to the motorcycle.

The deputy soon reported approaching another car, later identified as a Dodge Neon. The deputy said Clark was trying to pass the Neon.

"The motorcycle slowed very quickly and started" changing lanes, Vansant wrote. The motorcycle contacted the front right passenger side of my ... police vehicle and then accelerated."

To sheriff's officials, the motorcyclist appeared to have missed a gear while shifting, causing it to slow and hit the deputy's SUV.

A satellite-estimated speed reading on the video showed the cruiser going about 90 mph just before the wreck and 64 mph within seconds of the crash.

The motorcycle hit the Neon and the curb. Clark was thrown to the sidewalk.

Paramedics soon pronounced him dead.

The county coroner later pulled a marijuana cigarette, a pipe and a few bags of the drug from Clark's clothes, the report stated. The marijuana weighed nearly 2 ounces.

Angie Jackson contributed to this report.

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