UPDATE: 61-year-old woman dies after Thomasville law enforcement pursuit
THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - A police pursuit in Thomasville left an innocent bystander dead and the driver in custody.
WALB Reporter Ashanti Issac confirms the crash happened near an intersection on South Stevens Street, in front of Hubs and Hops and the Boys and Girls Club of Thomasville.
Thomas County Coroner Don Shiver confirmed the death of Jennifer Ferrell, 61, who was waiting at a stop sign when the pursuit happened and her vehicle was struck. The victim later died at Archbold Medical Center.
The fatal crash happened after officers with the Thomas County Drug Squad tried to stop a suspect they believed to have felony warrants. The suspect fled from law enforcement and during the pursuit, the suspect reportedly crashed their vehicle into the victim’s vehicle, according to a release by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.That crash came at the end of a law enforcement pursuit.
“We are back to where we started six years ago and this is not the first time, this is unfortunately another innocent bystander have lost her life,” said the victim’s family spokesperson, Spencer Wilson Sr.
“You have to weigh the good of what you’re trying to do, the warrant, vs the public safety and the lives of the public,” said President of the Thomasville NAACP Nathaniel Tyler.
WALB asked the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office for its pursuit policy. The 8-page document doesn’t ban pursuits in city limits, it’s a subjective call for the officer. The section in question reads in part.:
“The following factors individually and collectively shall be considered in deciding whether to initiate pursuit:
Seriousness of the known or reasonably suspected crime and its relationship to community safety.
Safety of the public in the area of the pursuit, including the type of area, time of day, the amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and the speed of the pursuit relative to these factors.”
A woman who lives nearby says she heard the end of the chase and the crash.
“As I was coming outside, you can hear them before they even came by. They just flew by, they didn’t stop for traffic, they didn’t stop at the stop sign,” said Rhonda Turner. “Y’all chasing people, y’all didn’t think y’all was going to kill nobody? Somebody innocent got killed.”
“Chasing cars in the downtown area, in neighborhoods and using maneuvers where they’re striking speeding vehicles and causing accidents, eventually you’re going to have a loss of life.” Tyler said.
“These individuals have not robbed a bank, have not murdered anyone and so we don’t see a need to put innocent people’s lives in jeopardy because of small marijuana,” said Wilson. “Here we go again with the same issue that the NAACP along with the black community have been outraged with all of this chasing.”
According to the GBI, it all started when the Thomas County Drug Squad tried to stop a suspect with warrants, just before noon on Monday. The suspect took off, and a chase began. It ended with a crash near the downtown area. The GBI says the suspect’s car hit Jennifer Farrell’s car. She died hours later.
“If you know that it’s lunch hour. Yall chasing people, y’all didn’t think y’all was gonna kill nobody?” Turner said.
Now, once again, some members of the community are calling for The Thomas County Sheriff’s Office to change its policy.
“No one is being held accountable for all these injuries and deaths in these high-speed chases,” Wilson said.
“That’s why we hire and train professional people to weigh the cost of should I chase someone that’s not using good damage into an area that’s going to cause more damage than what I’m chasing them for,” Tyler said.
Residents say they have been asking for this change since 2017 and they hope another person doesn’t lose their life before that change is implemented.
A Facebook live video was taken by a witness after the crash.
WALB has reached out to multiple law enforcement departments for more information.
Stay with WALB as we continue to provide updates.
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