Suspect, victim identified after fatal crash during police chase - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Suspect, victim identified after fatal crash during police chase

Kareem Felder, (Source: CCSO). Kareem Felder, (Source: CCSO).
(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
Bernitha Vaughn, (Source: Facebook). Bernitha Vaughn, (Source: Facebook).

A man is facing numerous charges after he struck and killed an elderly woman in the Baldwin Park neighborhood Wednesday during a high-speed chase with Metro Police.

GSP says Kareem Felder is charged with homicide by vehicle in the first degree, failure to stop at a stop sign and driving while unlicensed. More charges could come pending vehicle and blood results.

An officer spotted Felder from a previous crime scene and pursued him in his vehicle. A chase ensued, ending in the deadly crash. 

GSP Senior Trooper Cuttington says 69-year-old Bernitha Vaughn was just one block away from her home when Felder crashed into her car at the intersection of Maupas Avenue and Harmon Street, killing her instantly. 

Felder suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken into police custody. 

“It seems to be more common in Savannah, the high speed chases happening and the crime that's getting more serious. It'll definitely make me more cautious when I'm crossing intersections and stuff like that because I don't want to be the next person to get hit honestly,” said Sydney Vincent, Baldwin Park resident. 

WTOC is told by family that Vaughn has called the Baldwin Park area home for more than four decades.

Chatham District Attorney Meg Heap had a stack of prior police reports and court documents on Felder, saying he was sentenced to jail last summer. She says he was released early, not due out until next month.

"This person who'd been sentence and had been released, if he had done his entire sentence that the court had sentenced him to, he would not have been out at the time that this occurred, and we would not have had a vehicular homicide.," said Meg Heap, Chatham District Attorney. 

Maupas Avenue was closed between Ott and Paulsen streets and Harmon Street was closed between 40th and 41st streets following the crash. All roads have since reopened.

WTOC asked not only about the origin of the pursuit, but also what Metro's policy is regarding chases.

Felder was under surveillance by Metro’s Undercover Narcotics Investigations Team. Minutes before the fatal collision, Felder pulled into a carwash at Victory Drive and Skidaway Road, where UNIT detectives approached his car on foot and Felder fled from the carwash.

A representative with the police department did send their policy regarding pursuits. Officers have to consider the seriousness of the offense, the time of day and their surroundings including other vehicles and road conditions, before initiating.

Police are encouraged to stop the chase if it enters an area where bystanders are put it risk, or is going at an unsafe speed.

As for the man police were after, Felder has a lengthy criminal record with multiple felony convictions, his most recent just last summer.

If he had served his whole sentence, he would be in jail until next month. But he became eligible for release, and the Chatham District Attorney's Office says they were never notified of that possibility by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

"He went into prison in July, and was out in December. We ask time and time again, and we do fight the battle, is that the court has heard all the evidence. The court has sentence this person to what they believe is the appropriate sentence. Please keep them in there for that period of time,” said Heap. 

Felder is charged with vehicular homicide, reckless driving and failing to stop at a stop sign, and is currently booked at the Chatham County Detention Center.

The Georgia State Patrol continues to investigate. 

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