TUSCULUM, Tenn. (WJHL) – A police pursuit around midnight on Saturday, Dec. 4 spanned 22 miles when a Tusculum Police Department officer began chasing a suspect down Highway 11E toward Washington County, Tenn.
The car driven by suspect Christian Morrow would ultimately crash, killing an innocent driver on W. Market Street in Johnson City.
Tusculum Police Chief Danny Greene told News Channel 11 Wednesday the responding officer initiated the pursuit because he clocked the driver traveling at 104 miles per hour, with no tag visible.
This led them to believe the car might have been stolen.
Chief Greene was the second and only additional officer to become involved in the chase from Tusculum into Johnson City.
The pursuit began near the Greene Valley Developmental Center and continued down 11E. Chief Greene says he and the other officer maintained about a quarter-mile distance from the fleeing suspect who ultimately turned onto Persimmon Ridge, drove down Main Street in Downtown Jonesborough, and then continued back on 11E before ultimately crashing on W. Market Street in Johnson City.
Greene said it was their intention during the pursuit to alert nearby jurisdictions that the chase was headed their way so they could help. Greene admits in speaking with 911 there was a communication mishap that resulted in no other departments being alerted in time about the pursuit or requested for assistance.
Jonesborough Police told News Channel 11 Wednesday they were never notified of the chase that at one point went through the downtown area.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office says they only found out eight minutes prior to the vehicle crashing.
So – what are the standards for when a police pursuit is necessary?
“Pursuit policies in the United States are very tight. They have to be tight because of the liability that goes on, like a situation we saw this weekend, unfortunately. An innocent civilian was killed by the actions of a driver who was fleeing from police,” said Eric Scott Stanton, lead instructor of criminal justice, behavioral and social sciences at Northeast State Community College.
“Most departments across this country have gone to the gold standard that the only time you pursue is when a violent felony has occurred or is currently occurring. It’s the only time most departments allow a pursuit,” he added.
Stanton argues that police pursuits, sometimes, are not worth the risk.
“At any time that officer feels the risk of that pursuit is not worth continuing that pursuit, he or she has to break that off immediately. The only way you would want to continue to pursue is if you know this is a violent felon,” said Stanton.
For context, News Channel 11 examined the Jonesborough Police Department’s policy on police pursuit. It outlines that “only situations or incidents involving violent felony acts will allow an officer to be involved in a pursuit.”
It goes on to say, “The primary goal of the department is the protection of life and property. A pursuit is not consistent with that goal when it exposes any officer, suspect or member of the general public to unnecessary risk of harm or injury.”
News Channel 11 was unable to receive a copy of Tusculum PD’s pursuit policy in time for this report. But, in speaking with Chief Greene Wednesday, he said none of their department’s pursuit policies were violated during Saturday’s midnight chase.
Police identified the person who was killed when Morrow crashed into them as “Anna Pearson.” Family and friends of the victim tell us they went by the name “A.”
Morrow was taken to the hospital for injuries sustained in the crash and then released to a mental health facility where he remains as of Wednesday, according to Chief Greene.
Tusculum PD charged Morrow with felony evading arrest and driving on a suspended license.
Charges from the Tennessee Highway Patrol are pending the conclusion of their investigation.