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Deputy pursued driver into Va.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

By BY BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A pickup was being pursued in Henry County by a Rockingham County (N.C.) sheriff’s deputy Thursday night when the pickup collided with another car, resulting in a fiery crash that left two people dead.

“We have the authority to pursue someone committing a (alleged) felony wherever,” including across state lines, said Rockingham Deputy Kevin Southard.

Jennifer Courtney Thomasson, 28, of Ridgeway, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a release from the Virginia State Police.

She was driving a 2008 Dodge Caliber, which crashed head-on with a 1995 Ford F-150 pickup shortly after 10 p.m. on U.S. 220 just south of Virginia 87 in Ridgeway, the release stated.

The driver of the pickup also was pronounced dead at the scene, the release stated. He was not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash and was partially ejected from the vehicle, according to the release.

His identity is unknown pending identification through the medical examiner’s office.

Thomasson was wearing a safety belt before the crash, the release said.

According to the release, the preliminary investigation revealed that a 1995 Ford F-150 pickup was being pursued by Rockingham County Deputy Jason Richardson.

Southard said Richardson first noticed the pickup earlier Thursday evening on H.J. Road in Stoneville, N.C. Southard said the vehicle was parked on the dead-end road with its headlights off.

Because the sheriff’s office frequently receives calls about suspicious activity on that road, Richardson pulled up behind the pickup to investigate, Southard said. When Richardson went to check the vehicle, it allegedly “fled at a high rate of speed,” Southard said.

“The deputy tried to initiate a traffic stop,” Southard said, but the driver allegedly did not pull over. Because Richardson was concerned that a high-speed chase could endanger lives, Southard said, he terminated the chase.

Later that evening, however, Richardson saw the pickup again, Southard said. It allegedly was traveling erratically, and Richardson again tried to initiate a traffic stop, and again the driver allegedly did not pull over, Southard added.

As the vehicle approached the Virginia/North Carolina line, the pickup began traveling northbound in the southbound lane of U.S. 220, Southard said. Richardson contacted his supervisor and asked if he could continue the pursuit into Virginia, and the supervisor allowed him to, Southard said.

“(Richardson) had the authority the first time to continue the chase, but he discontinued it for safety purposes,” Southard said.

The Henry County Sheriff’s Office also was contacted, Southard said.

Richardson’s goal was two-fold, Southard said: to continue the pursuit until Virginia authorities could intervene, and to use his lights and siren to warn oncoming traffic.

Although the vehicle was heading north in the southbound lane, Southard added, Richardson stayed in the northbound lane during the pursuit.

The accident remains under investigation by the Virginia State Police.


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