With sirens wailing and blue lights flashing, North Charleston police on Friday chased a pickup truck down Interstate 26 and through the narrow residential streets of several Charleston neighborhoods after the driver failed to stop for a suspected window tinting violation.
The chase started around 1:30 p.m., and witnesses who were driving on Interstate 26 said there were about a half-dozen police cars involved, marked and unmarked, making rapid lane changes through traffic. Authorities said speeds at times reached more than 90 mph.
The driver of the pickup nearly collided with at least two other drivers, the witnesses said.
North Charleston Police Department spokesman Spencer Pryor said police tried to stop the truck at South Aviation Avenue and International Boulevard for a window tinting violation.
"The driver did not stop and led police on a pursuit that ended when the driver and passenger bailed out of the vehicle on Boyer Court in Charleston," Pryor said.
According to witnesses and to traffic on the police radio, after leading police down the interstate, the driver got off at the Rutledge Avenue exit and drove down Rutledge, past the Crosstown Expressway, onto Cannon Street and then Coming Street before getting back on the Crosstown.
The driver then went from the Crosstown to westbound I-26, got off at the Romney Street exit and quickly turned into Boyer Court, a small street off Romney. The driver wrecked into a fence on Boyer Court and both occupants bailed out and ran.
Dozens of police officers from North Charleston and Charleston converged on the scene. Several Charleston County sheriff's deputies also arrived to help track down the occupants.
Pryor said both occupants were males, and both were quickly apprehended.
The driver, whom Pryor identified as Kiway S. Smith of Huger Street, was charged with failure to stop for blue lights, Pryor said. The passenger was not charged.
North Charleston police officers are allowed to initiate pursuits at their own discretion, Pryor said. Supervisors are able to call them off. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office has a similar policy.
In 2007, Charleston residents were upset after several chases that began in North Charleston ended with collisions in Charleston. The Charleston City Council's Public Safety Committee held public hearings on the issue, and Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen and North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt began discussions on the issue.
The Charleston Police Department's pursuit policy is one of the strictest in the state. Officers have to get permission from a supervisor before, rather than during, a high-speed chase. And chases are limited to violent felonies such as murder, kidnapping, robbery and rape.
Mount Pleasant also requires officers to get a supervisor's permission before pursuit.