Witnesses question fatal police chase

Published: Oct. 31, 2011 at 9:03 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2011 at 9:28 PM EDT
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People who witnessed the crash that killed an Albany police officer Friday say the chase through their neighborhood was too dangerous and should have been called off.

But Albany Police pursuit policy says that pursuing a dangerous felony suspect, including armed robbery, that presents an immediate danger to the community, is justified.

The results of an autopsy performed today on 36-year old Officer Terry Lewis-Flemming are not available yet.

She died in a fiery crash after another officer pulled into her path as they chased two robbery suspects.

Those men, 22-year old Kentrell Butler and 22-year-old Wesley Wilkerson, remain in jail charged with murder and armed robbery.

Almost everyone we talked to in East Albany agreed that the death of Officer Terry Lewis Flemming was an un-necessary tragedy. Most of the people who saw the Police response said in their opinion it was just too dangerous.

Early Monday morning the Georgia State Patrol Special Collision Reconstruction Team was back at East Residence Avenue and Blaylock Street, where the fatal police crash happened Friday afternoon. A small cross and a picture of Officer Lewis Flemming in her wedding dress are displayed at the tree her car hit.

It will be months before the SCRT investigators release their final report, but troopers say Officer Lewis Flemming's car, going South on Blaylock T-Boned Officer Greg Batson's patrol car as he pulled out heading west on East Residence into the intersection.

Teresa Billingsley was standing at the corner and saw the crash.

Billingsley said "I could see both of them before they got ready to clash. They clashed. He ran the stop sign, he didn't yield, he didn't stop."

Billingsley said both cars were going very fast, and the collision was violent.

Billingsley said "both of the cars were in midair. When her car was in midair fire and flames were everywhere. And when she landed the car was still on fire. Her car was in flames."

Robert Montgomery, the East Town Subdivision Neighborhood Crime Watch President, said from his garage he watched the robbery suspect's Blue Chevrolet SUV speed by followed by what he called a convoy of more than a dozen law enforcement cars.

Montgomery said "And they had to be running about 65 or 70 miles per hour when they rounded this curve here."

Montgomery said he thought Police could have handled the situation without the chase. "We just feel like it was unnecessary for this chase to zig zag through our neighborhood the way it did."

Billingsley agreed the chase was too dangerous. "They were just flying up and down the road. And we have too many small children. That lot over there where the two cars landed, it stays full of kids. It was just the grace of God that those kids were not over there."

A tragic death that has people in the community upset and looking for answers to prevent another officer death.

Officer Lewis-Flemming's funeral is Friday, November 4, at 11:00 AM at the Albany Civic Center.

The Albany Police Pursuit Policy, and it lists the felony crimes that pursuits are justified for, and they include murder, kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery.

It says the use of deadly force, like in this case the gun used in the robbery of the finance company, and the threat to the community if the subject escapes, justify the chase.

Copyright 2011 WALB.  All rights reserved.