Dangerous Chase Across Savannah Injures Seven - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

10/04/06

Dangerous Chase Across Savannah Injures Seven

Interim Chief Willie Lovett looks over the mangled patrol car in which two of his officers were hurt. Interim Chief Willie Lovett looks over the mangled patrol car in which two of his officers were hurt.

Five officers and two civilians were hurt in a wild chase across Savannah. It all started at the intersection of East 37th and Price Streets, where police tried to arrest a man. The man was not giving up, and the arrest turned into anything but routine.

Police got a tip that Juwaun Lee, a suspect they've been tracking for more than a week, was spotted near 37th and Price. When they moved in, the suspect pulled someone out of their Volvo, stole it and took off, sparking a desperate 15-minute chase.

Officers didn't find out until much later that it wasn't even Juwaun Lee they were chasing.

WTOC caught up with the chase at the intersection of Montgomery and Park Avenue, where police cruisers almost had the black Volvo cornered.

Officers jumped out of their cars, and we heard what appeared to be a gunshot. Police were still investigating if that happened.

"We have not confirmed at this point whether or not shots were indeed fired," said Sgt. Mike Wilson.

At that point, the Volvo somehow made it out of the intersection, and took off down Montgomery and sped West on Gwinnett. Less than a mile later, the chase turned disastrous.

A police car collided with a civilian car, injuring two officers and both women in the other car. Witnesses say one officer went through the windshield and hit a utility pole.

"I can see the police cruiser all tore up, another car right at the intersection here at Gwinnett and Stiles," said witness James Savage.

The chase continued on, but many people watched as police tended to their own, and the two people in the other car who were also hurt.

"I thought someone had been killed," said another witness, Dorothy Pelote. "I saw the [police] tape."

While emergency crews cleaned up the scene, other police started heading toward the hospital, to check on the injured officer's condition. Police say at the time of the chase, they thought Juwaun Lee was in the car, and at that point, getting him in custody outweighed the risks.

"It was paramount to the entire community that he be captured," said Sgt. Wilson. "Our officers took the necessary actions to try and ensure the safety of the public."

As it turns out, the man who stole that Volvo was not Juwaun Lee, but another of Savannah's most-wanted suspects: Cornell Morgan.

This was a very scary situation for both officers and the public, and the wreck at Gwinnett and Stiles highlights the danger that officers put themselves in when they get involved in chases like this.

 A list of the people hurt Wednesday:

*Sgt. Robert Gavin was treated and released.
*Sgt. Kevin Barry was treated and released.
*Patrol Officer Rufus Brown was treated and released.
*Cpl. Kenneth Brewer was seriously injured at Gwinnett and Stiles and remains in the hospital.
*Patrol Officer Shamonica Baide was seriously injured at Gwinnett and Stiles and remains in the hospital.
*The two women in the other car in that accident were Betty Jackson and Doretha Grubbs. They were both treated for minor injuries.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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