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Seven Teens Die in N.C. Police Chase

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TROUTMAN, N.C. (AP) - A car trying to outrun a police officer ran off a road and crashed early Monday, killing all seven teenagers inside, the Highway Patrol said.

The driver was identified as a 15-year-old, and the father of one of the victims said none of the teens had licenses and the group had been borrowing cars for joyrides.

A police officer from Troutman began chasing the car after seeing the 2001 Dodge Intrepid weaving in its lane, the patrol said.

``They passed us going 85 to 100 miles an hour with the police car passing us,'' said a witness, Brandon Jackson.

Troutman police Chief Eric Henderson said Officer Keith Bills chased the car for about a mile on U.S. 21 until it flipped over after hitting an embankment, crashed into a tree and then skidded to a stop upside down in a creek.

Bills, however, said he tried to stop the car only briefly, following it about 500 yards before it sped out of sight.

``It was swerving, slowing down and speeding up, just erratic driving,'' Bills told the Statesville Record & Landmark. Bills said he did not see the crash, but found the wreckage later.

The Highway Patrol identified the dead as driver John Lindsey Myers, 15, and passengers David Wayne Summers, 14, Quentin Maurice Reed, 18, Antonio Miller, 13, Domnick Hurtt, 17, Erica Stevenson, 15, and Antoinette Griffin, 13, all from Statesville.

All were pronounced dead at the scene, and none was wearing a seat belt, the Highway Patrol said.

Howard Hurtt said his son and the boy's friends had recently been borrowing cars from people they knew and going for rides.

``They were just out joyriding and a cop pulls them over and here we have seven deaths. I lost my only son,'' Hurtt said.

Dyrita Ellis, 31, who came to the scene with her teenage daughter and a cousin, said the five boys who died were a tight-knit group.

``We just saw them yesterday,'' she said. ``They were happy and laughing. ... It looks like they were out having fun last night, just doing their Christmas holiday break.''

The car had been moved by midmorning, but 50-foot skid marks showed where it abruptly veered off the highway. Glass was embedded in the tree's trunk, and car parts were visible around the creek.

``You see these kids driving these fast cars and they have no sense,'' said Bucky Edwards, who stopped by to survey the damage. ``It's so sad.''

Troutman, about 35 miles north of Charlotte, has about 1,600 residents

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Wow, what an awful story. And at the same time, what a bunch of dumb ass kids.

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Actually, I would burn the dumbass cops on this one, more than the kids. If someone has shown that they are going to run... why continue to chase them? What... are you going to chase them down, jump out of your moving patrol car, and single handedly stop them?

Hmmm, are small town cops so starved to fulfill their authority kick that they will CHASE someone at high speed and execute equally dangerous maneuvers in a futile attempt to stop the "criminals"... Does it not make sense that once the driver feels he is no longer being chased, he'll calm the hell down and start making more rational decisions??

Here's a suggestion for such cops: Get rid of your pride and ego, remember your duty to protect and serve, get a description of the car, call ahead, attempt to set up a road block, if you don't get them at first then big deal--search for them... you've got nothing but time. For all they know, the passengers of the car were completely innocent... perhaps they wanted the driver to stop. Too late now, they're all dead. I would charge the cops involved with something.

If cops were held accountable for their sometimes HIGHLY questionable conduct, then I bet we would have a lot fewer problems. My grandfather was an NC State Trooper for 32 years, and nothing pissed him off more than a story like this. He would rant for days over how foolish a chase is, and he had a point. Unlike some officers out there, he didn't have a fetish for obedience.

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Wow, what an awful story. And at the same time, what a bunch of dumb ass kids.

Agreed. Hadn't they noticed the seatbelts right next to them? No licenses, get killed in a crash...this happened just a few weeks ago in my city. A girl got drunk and crashed her friend's parent's stolen car into a tree. She died a few hours later.

I find it hard to believe that some states actually let 15 year-olds drive. In Michigan, we have very strict regulations & a long graduated licensing program. It's a pain to go through, but the number of teenage accidents has decreased more than 25% since it was implemented.

To get a Level One License (Learner's Permit) you must be 14 years, 9 months old and go through driver's training. After passing a written test, you can go get the level one license, which allows you to drive with a parent. You must drive at least 50 hours with your parents (10 of which must be at night). Then once you turn 16, you can go take a road test and get your level 2 license. The level 2 license allows you drive alone, but not between midnight and 5 AM. Then, when you turn 17, you get your level 3 license, which is completely unrestricted.

And on top of that, the legislature is working on a bill that would not all teens to have more than one other teenager in the vehicle with them while theu are driving, because too many teens go out to parties, get drunk, and then get killed in a crash. Also, this would prevent a lot of distractions that would cause a young driver to take his eyes off the road.

All this sounds like a pain in the neck, and it is (trust me, I've been through it), but it really does help to prevent incidents like this one from happening. I just wish more states had a licensing system like Michigan's. I've had many people who go to my school get killed in car crashes (including some of my own friends), and to know that their deaths could've been prevented just by wearing a seatbelt or keeping their eyes on the road....it just makes dealing with the issue that much more emotional and difficult for everyone.

Sorry for completely rambling on...it's a very bad habit of mine....

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Actually, didn't Los Angeles even stop doing police pursuits for some of those reasons? Pursuits put so many people in danger. It's easier to set up a road block ahead, or get a description of the car. Many times a chase simply isn't worth the risk to everyone involved.

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It is not the cop's fault if he was following procedure. In fact, the article stated he only chased them about 500 yards then backed away because they seemed to be out of control. Most good cops are trained to do that.

I know most people's gut reaction is to feel sad about the kids' deaths, but if ANYONE is to blame, it is these dumbass kids for being stupid enough to drive without driver licenses. They not only endangered themselves, but other LICENSED drivers as well. They had absolutely NO business being on the road. And their parents are dumbasses for letting their children get away with stuff like this. I'm not one for social darwinism, but you just have to wonder with cases like this. Thank goodness no other vehicles or people were involved in this crash.

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It is not the cop's fault if he was following procedure. In fact, the article stated he only chased them about 500 yards then backed away because they seemed to be out of control. Most good cops are trained to do that.

Thank goodness no other vehicles or people were involved in this crash.

I don't deny the kids responsibility in this, but many departments have wisely chosen to forego high-speed chases because both a speeding police car or the pursued car can endanger the lives of other people.

The article is contradictory on how long he chased them.

The department says he did until the car crashed. The officer says he did for 500 yards.

And it may not be the cop's fault if he was following procedure, but it may well be the department's fault if that official procedure involved chasing a car at all costs.

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And it may not be the cop's fault if he was following procedure, but it may well be the department's fault if that official procedure involved chasing a car at all costs.

If the blame should be placed on law enforcement, then yes, the department should get the blame for their SOP. My response was directed towards NorffCarolina for saying that the cops are at fault, implying it was the police officer/s himself. I don't know if he meant that or department.

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Actually, didn't Los Angeles even stop doing police pursuits for some of those reasons? Pursuits put so many people in danger. It's easier to set up a road block ahead, or get a description of the car. Many times a chase simply isn't worth the risk to everyone involved.

Yes in 1999 they stoped high speed chase because people would try and stop them or would go and stand in the streets to the chase go by. The only reason they would chase you know is if you have killed somebody, shot at police or somebody or have broken out of jail.

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Although sometimes I disagree with the way the police get involved in some high speed chances, I don't think it makes sense to completely stop all high speed pursuits. In certain situations it does make sense to to continue to persue the suspects.

However, in 99% of chases of police chases, even if the officer stayed in the pursuit a little too long, lets not duck responsbility here. It is still the other person that is running. Whether or not the officer continued for too long, or took risks during the chance, should be addressed seperately from the resonsbility of the person in the other vehicle to stop when law enforcement asks them.

I'm not sure the parents always need to be blamed, it really depends on how aware of the situation they were. If they knew their children were taking the cars and driving them underage, then yes, they have a responsbility. If the kids did it without adult knowledge, then there is little you could honestly blame the parents for. I know I've done plenty of things that my parents had no idea I was doing.

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The kid who was driving was responsible for the whole mess. Now, 7 kids are dead and it is not the cops' fault... Let's not shift the blame. Anyone who gets behind the wheel should be a responsible person. The cops did their job, the teenage driver didn't. Yes, there are cops who overdo it, but they put their life at risk, and their job is not to be intimidated by a bunch of irresponsible teenagers. Imagine if the cops feared to do a high-speed chase... how could you trust them with protecting you and your family if they gave up so easily? In reality, high-speed chases are nothing like what people see in the movies, and road-blocks don't quite work the way some of us may think. The moral of the story is that parents who allow their kids to drive without proper education are as responsible as the stupid teenagers who think they can get away with illegal actions. I am more upset about the death of seven young people than anything else, but it seems to me that many teenagers don't learn much from accidents. What does it take to build a responsible and educated society?

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High speed chases are dangerous and shouldn't be legal ever...

Think about it... who is going to make a rational decision to run away from a cop in a car? No one--it isn't a rational decision.

So, why provoke an obviously irrational person even more by chasing him/her? That's like burying nuclear bombs in an active fault line and detonating them.

What's needed here is clever thinking... you need to outsmart the criminal. Do what you have to do to ID the criminal, but don't go pushing someone who is obviously already at the edge. That's when bad crap happens.

THIS is what I'm saying... I feel that cops who go off and get wrapped up in this chase crap lose track of their real purpose. There have been PLENTY of accidents where cops have killed innocent motorists all in an effort to chase down someone who is trying to get away...

Hey check this out: Isn't there a remote chance that if you STOP chasing someone, maybe they'll stop trying to get away... They'll stop panicing, start making more rational and safe decisions, thus making the danger level drop a bit.

Also on a more fundamental level... What are cops driving: Ford Crown Victorias. First of all, they're slow. Despite what you hear, modern cop cars are stock Fords with no sound insulation, a disabled speed limiter (stock limiter is 106mph), and a badge that says "Police Interceptor".

They're unbalanced, and exhibit quirky and sloppy handling especially at high speeds. They also cannot stop worth a crap. They also explode if you rear end them hard enough. Those cars have no business being used as they are. I'm sure they're fine cars for people who want a large domestic RWD car for their daily driver. There's plenty of leg room and the trunk is large.

NC has a fleet of 100 Camaro SS patrol cars. Oh wait, they used to have 100, but since their introduction they've lost about 10 of them because of cocky officers who think they're actually driving a sports car. During their SECOND DAY of use, an innocent motorist was killed on I-40 thanks to a dipcrap officer in his Camaro.

Yeah, there's a good idea, we'll use some short wheel-based overpowered unrefined gas-guzzling monster as a high speed patrol vehicle... Not only that, we'll tell the cops who drive them that they'll be able to outaccelerate, outstop, and outhandle anything on the road. Hahahaha... next time I take my car to VIR, I'll snap pics of the REAL performance cars out there. :D

If they wanted something truly roadworthy, the Highway Patrol should've gotten a fleet of freakin Audi S4s or hell, some Volvo S70R sedans or something. :D Hell, you want BIG? Try on some Jag XJRs... they're hot!

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the Highway Patrol should've gotten a fleet of freakin Audi S4s

Sumter Police got one last month after a drug bust and use it for speed traps

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Turns out those kids stole a Dodge Intrepid, and were running the car at 80-100 mph with a doughnut spare tire installed. (normally these have a top speed of about 50 mph)

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monsoon: I agree with you.

NorffCarolina: I agree with you, too. Only one problem... North Carolina doesn't have the funds to get helicopters and super-charged cars to catch the "bad" guys. Being in the law enforcement "industry" gives me a different perspective of what's feasible and what isn't. Money, not skills, is the issue. Even with a few dumbass officers that wreck the Camaros, NC's law enforcement infrastructure is far better than most places. High-speed chases present a danger to all, but the worst part is letting people get away thinking they can outsmart the police. The long-term implications are far more important here. I agree with your idea on "smart" surveilance, but it's not always feasible. Hopefully, we'll get more funds in the future.

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It is frightening to think that this sort of thing goes on. I drive down that highway

a good bit and I would hate to think of running into a group like that. They could

have easily killed others as well.

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