By: Scott Pelkey
ASHEBORO N.C. (ACME NEWS) — On December 2nd 2021 a vehicle chase ended in a fiery head on crash on the new 64 Bypass that sent 3 people to the hospital. Acme News gathered 911 radio traffic, dispatch notes, police and crash reports, ans poke with witnesses and experts to create a min by min breakdown of the events that led up to that crash.
Dec 1st 2021 (Time Unknown) – According to a police report from the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, A blue Mazda was stolen from a home on Davis Country Rd.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:00 p.m. – the Criminal Apprehension Team with the Randolph County Sheriff’s office is conducting surveillance on a wanted suspect on 64 West. That suspect Larry Land was driving the same Blue Mazda stolen the previous day. Land is wanted in 4 counties on a combined 14 warrants.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:05 p.m. – Deputies with the Criminal Apprehension Team (CAT) attempt to pull over Land. He doesn’t stop.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:05 p.m. – Unit 174, a deputy with the cat team radios in to the Randolph County 911 center and reports a vehicle pursuit is underway. deputies with the cat team know land is the driver, and that they also know there is a female passenger in the car with him. Land takes exit 352 onto the new 64 bypass, heading west.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:11 p.m. – Land makes it to Exit 346 which is the new Zoo Connector road. Here Land goes off into the grass then returns to the roadway before going off the road again and making a u turn. He avoids a marked and unmarked unit that are both behind him. At some point during this we believe Land struck one of the patrol vehicles. Land re-enters the bypass on the eastbound side traveling west.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:12 p.m. – Baker 10, a call sign for a patrol supervisor working the shift keys up on the radio and tells the units to cancel the chase. There are two replies to the call, a unit keys up to say that Land has already hit his vehicle, and the 911 dispatcher asked the supervisor to confirm he was saying for units to cancel the chase. There is no response.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:13 p.m. – Now eight minutes into the chase and highway patrol has joined the units. At this point Land has made it to the 73 74 junction and uses the entrance ramp as an exit ramp getting onto 73 74 going in the wrong direction. Units call out conflicting information with one saying Land is going southbound, the other saying westbound. Land makes another u-turn heading back towards the bypass. With patrol units and SHP in the chase now, its not clear who has command and radio traffic begins to break down.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:14 p.m. – Land gets back on the bypass this time traveling east in the westbound lanes.
Dec 2nd 2021 2:15 p.m. – Land makes it back to the Zoo Connector rd, he takes the exit then cuts back through the grass and gets back on the bypass still going in the wrong direction. A member of the CAT team says he doesn’t see much traffic and is going to try a PIT maneuver (He never gets the chance).
Dec 2nd 2021 2:15 p.m. – The chase only makes it another quarter mile before at 10 minutes and 32 seconds into the chase Land crashes head on into an oncoming vehicle. An accident report from the highway patrol shows that Land struck the front right side of an oncoming SUV. The report estimates the speed of the crash at 70mph.
Fire EMS and air care are all notified. Lands female passenger is pinned in the car with the engine block on fire. This moment was briefly captured on camera and posted on Facebook. Officials with the fire department told Acme News that police were able to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher before they arrived.
The Randolph County Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal investigation following the crash. On Dec 22nd 2021 Sheriff Seabolt said they had concluded that investigation but were unable to share its findings as it was an internal departmental matter. The highway patrol declined to respond to questions about it the also conducted an internal investigation.
What Acme News found was, a breakdown in communication, confusion over the chain of command and who was in charge of the chase, and the lack of units from the RCSO to easily communicate with SHP, or for SHP to communicate with units from the RCSO were all likely factors that contributed to the crash.
These findings do not cast blame. The true cause of the crash was an armed and wanted felon driving recklessly trying to avoid arrest. Instead these factors likely led to missed opportunities to end the chase sooner, may have prevented a unit from canceling the chase, and therefore made the chase more dangerous. It’s our hope that law enforcement agencies see these findings and use them to better inform their chase policies.
In the end 3 people were transported to the hospital, including Land’s female passenger who was airlifted from the scene. Thankfully and luckily, everyone survived. A crash investigation expert said based on the photos and video of the scene we showed him that either Land or the SUV he struck likely jerked the wheel at the last second changing it from a most likely fatal straight head on crash to a balancing head-on crash where everyone survived. They estimated that another 12 inches to the right and it could of been a much worse accident. This investigator is still an active law enforcement officer and asked to remain unnamed.