Sheriff in wild 25-mile chase

A Charleston County sheriff's deputy walks next to a pickup that had been speeding away from Sheriff Al Cannon in the Francis Marion National Forest on Monday morning.

ANDREW KNAPP

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon emptied his .45-caliber service pistol at the tires of a pickup truck that led him and several deputies on a 25-mile chase Monday beginning in Mount Pleasant and ending near Awendaw.

Cannon and two deputies eventually flattened one or more of the driver's tires, and the driver was brought down and bitten by a sheriff's K-9.

Timothy Shawn McManus, 31, of Macoma Drive in Mount Pleasant, is charged with failure to stop for blue lights, resisting arrest and driving under suspension more than first. Additional charges are pending against the jailed McManus.

Cannon said deputies pursued McManus at speeds up to 120 mph. The sheriff said his vehicle is limited to 95 mph. During the pursuit, McManus three or four times avoided "stop sticks" that deputies placed in roads ahead of his truck.

At least a dozen vehicles were run off the roads by McManus, Cannon said, but no one was injured.

A Mount Pleasant resident, Cannon said he was on Hungryneck Boulevard, near Venning Road, and on his way to his North Charleston office shortly before 10 a.m., when "a dark-colored pickup truck swerved in front of me and nearly collided with me." The Ram pickup truck rolled onto the curb and then headed toward U.S. Highway 17 and turned right, "almost colliding with a white pickup truck," he said.

Cannon said the pursuit was necessary because McManus was endangering motorists and pedestrians even before the chase began.

"In my opinion, the individual was creating a danger ... in the aggressive way in which he cut me off and went up on the sidewalk," Cannon said.

Cannon was driving an unmarked Chevrolet Suburban equipped with police lights and a siren. He said he activated the lights as the pickup departed while swerving around traffic, "almost hitting several cars," and headed north on U.S. 17.

"I told dispatch I was in a chase," he said.

Cannon said the driver several times ran cars off the roads as he was pursued through urban areas.

In the Francis Marion National Forest, Cannon cornered McManus on Forest Service Road 202-A, a dead end. The sheriff stopped and drew his pistol.

"I parked my car diagonally across the road. He stopped about 100 yards from me and just sat there a minute," Cannon said. Then, he said, McManus came roaring toward him, and as Cannon fired at the tires, the Ram scooted around the rear of the parked SUV.

"I shot nine times. That's how many shots my magazine will hold," he said. He said he aimed at the right front tire as the Ram approached and its left rear tire as it passed him.

Cannon said the area where he fired shots is wooded and uninhabited, and no one was in danger.

The pickup kept going, and two deputies who placed stop sticks on Willow Hall Road saw the truck get around them. The deputies fired several more shots at the tires.

At that point the right front tire was shredded and the left rear was blown out, and the truck "skidded straight into the intersection (of Willow Hall and Steed Creek roads), where he (McManus) bailed out and a canine caught him," Cannon said.

The end of the chase was witnessed by Kirsten Crawford, her cousin and two young children. They were out for a ride down Steed Creek Road when deputies forced her to stop in the median just north of U.S. 17. That's where the speeding Ram swerved around the deputies' stop sticks and nearly struck the Isuzu pickup Crawford's cousin was driving.

Crawford said a deputy, who was close enough to touch the vehicle she was in, opened fire on the pickup.

"I knew the cops wouldn't shoot us," she said. "But I was worried the man was going to shoot back at the police officers."

Crawford said she covered her daughter and son in the back seat of her pickup as the bullets flew.

"We were just going out to take a leisurely ride, but it wasn't so leisurely," Crawford said. "This will be a good Facebook status: Almost shot at in a police chase."

Cannon said he was relieved to see the chase end.

"The only thing I remember, my mouth was dry," he said.

Cannon said the S.C Highway Patrol is investigating an accident in which the two sheriff's vehicles bumped during the pursuit and were slightly damaged. The State Law Enforcement Division is probing the shootings.

Also in accordance with policy, the two deputies who fired shots were placed on administrative leave after the shooting, but that may last only until this morning. Cannon said he expects to put them back on duty.

Cannon said the policy regarding chases was followed, and as required, supervisors were consulted.

"I believe I have the maturity and judgment to make a decision whether or not that pursuit should continue," he said.

The last time Cannon fired his weapon in the line of duty was in the 1970s, when he was a North Charleston police officer. Then, as was the case Monday, he said he fired to stop a vehicle. "It was driving straight at my partner and me," he said of the 1970s incident.

After that incident, the vehicle crashed and the suspect was arrested.