VIDEO: Biker crashes, dies after chase with deputies
Dash camera video and the official incident report from the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office are shedding light on the circumstances leading to a motorcycle driver’s death after a high speed chase through the heart of Summerville, South Carolina, Wednesday night.
After nearly 6 minutes and more than seven miles, with speeds reaching as high as 112 miles per hour, the front of a Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office cruiser makes contact with the rear of the motorcycle.
Seconds later, dash camera video shows the driver lose control, hit a curb and crash into the passenger side of a bystander’s car as it changed lanes in front of him.
The motorcyclist, 30-year-old Robert Lee Clark, was not wearing a helmet and died at the scene, despite attempts to revive him using CPR by the deputy chasing him, according to an incident report released Thursday.
The dash camera video provided by the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office ends moments after the crash, and does not show any of the aftermath, during which the deputy, identified as James Vansant, reportedly attempted CPR on Clark.
An incident report from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office goes on to say the Dorchester County coroner searched Clark’s body and motorcycle, finding 55 grams of green plant material, a pipe and a rolled cigarette.
According to the incident report, Deputy Vansant began chasing Clark at 11:51 p.m. Wednesday when he saw him speeding on College Park Road in Ladson. Vansant reported Clark was doing 66 mph in a posted 45 mph zone.
Vansant said in his report he pulled out and turned on his blue lights to initiate a traffic stop, and Clark sped up.
The dash camera video shows it took Vansant a full minute to catch Clark, even doing 112 mph at one point. The sheriff’s office in its official statement on the chase reported the top speed at 111 mph.
Once Vansant caught up to Clark, the video shows Clark began driving erratically -- driving on the wrong side of the road, driving in the median, slowing down to only 33 mph, and speeding up to more than 100 mph again before finally running the red light at the College Park Road / Highway 17-A intersection.
From there, the video shows Clark turn left onto 17-A toward Summerville, where moments later a second deputy is shown joining the chase. Speeds again reached more than 100 mph (as high as 111), and continued at that pace for nearly a minute, during which Clark is shown running a second red light.
The video goes on to show Clark slowing to between 75-85 mph after crossing over the I-26 overpass into Summerville, again driving the wrong way on 17-A, running a third red light and speeding back up to more than 90 mph on North Main Street. The posted speed limit there is 30 mph.
Deputy Vansant's clear contact with Clark's motorcycle comes 5:37 into the chase. The deputy's speed at that point was displayed at 64 mph. The sheriff’s office said the contact was caused by Clark slowing dramatically after he appeared to “miss a gear.”
Deputy Vansant in his report only mentioned contacting the motorcycle once prior to the crash. The sheriff’s office in its official statement on the incident also only mentions one instance of contact between Vansant’s vehicle and the motorcycle.
ABC News 4 reached out to the South Carolina Highway Patrol to see if there were any other aspects of the chase under review, and we were told it's all still under investigation.
The sheriff’s office says it has placed Vansant on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the crash by the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Officials say Vansant has worked for the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office for a little more than a year, and worked with the North Charleston Police Department for six years prior to that. Before his career in law enforcement, the sheriff's office says Vansant served 16 years in the U.S. military.
On Friday, the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office provided a copy of its policy on vehicle pursuits. Employees are instructed to weigh several factors when deciding if they should chase of a suspect, including risk to public safety and the seriousness of the crime.
Furthermore, employees involved in a chase aren't allowed to deliberately make contact with the vehicle they're chasing unless they are specifically authorized by a supervisor. Even then, the policy states contact can only be approved in a situation where use of deadly force would be authorized.
Circumstances for abandoning chases are also outlined in the policy. According to the document, employees are responsible for continually reevaluating the situation, and can end the pursuit if risks of continuing the pursuit outweigh benefits.
One such scenario is if the suspect's identity has been determined and immediate apprehension isn't necessary.
Chases entering parking lots. school zones. construction zones and residential areas are supposed to be abandoned unless permission is given by a supervisor to continue.
Dash camera footage of the chase provided by the sheriff's office does include audio of Deputy Vansant's radio conversations during the chase, but conversations cannot be clearly understood.
View the sheriff's office pursuit policy in full below.