When the Chase Comes to an End
Since my last column, my offices have continued to protect our community by trying cases. One of these cases was unique in that it involved a series of crimes committed during a police pursuit in Thomaston. The Defendant in that case, Terel M. King of Thomaston, was wanted on outstanding felony warrants and had been on the run for over two years from multiple agencies. Before we elaborate on his actions, let me answer some questions.
What is a felony warrant? A warrant is a legal document issued by a Court that authorizes law enforcement to apprehend and arrest a person suspected of committing a crime. A felony warrant is issued when the suspected crimes involved are felonies. Felonies are crimes whose consequence includes a period of imprisonment over a year, while misdemeanors are crimes that are punishable with confinement of less than one year. In the absence of a warrant, an arrest may only be made if a law enforcement officer has "probable cause" to believe that a suspect has committed a crime. Where a warrant has been issued, an officer just needs to confirm that the person being arrested is the same one identified in the warrant. In short, any person who has warrants taken out against them risks being apprehended by any law enforcement officer they encounter. The alternative to flight is to turn yourself in to law enforcement and defend your rights in Court. Mr. King chose flight and made matters much worse for himself in the long run.
On February 12, 2020, the Thomaston Police Department received word that Mr. King was in Thomaston and driving a gold Cadillac Escalade. The Department issued a "BOLO" or "be on the lookout" to all officers for the vehicle. King was spotted by an officer attempting to conduct a traffic stop. Instead of stopping, Mr. King began to drive recklessly through a residential area to flee and elude law enforcement. Eventually, another officer collided with King's vehicle on another residential street in Thomaston, after which King fled on foot. King jumped into a bystander's Nissan Pathfinder, but Officer Poore of the Thomaston Police Department used his taser to try to remove King from the stolen vehicle. King quickly accelerated away from the scene, throwing Officer Poore onto the road, and causing him serious injuries. King escaped and was not captured until May 14, 2020, with the help of United States Marshals, Thomaston Police Department, the Upson County Sheriff's Office, and Zebulon Police Department.
The consequences of the above behavior were charges for Aggravated Assault on a Police Officer, Theft by Taking, five counts of Fleeing and Attempting to Elude, two Counts of Reckless Driving, and six traffic violations. In addition to the injuries sustained by Officer Poore, King's conduct could have caused serious bodily injury to other motorists, pedestrians, and other law enforcement officers. I am pleased to report that an Upson County jury convicted King on these counts and the Honorable Ben J. Miller, Jr. sentenced the defendant to 54 years with the first 31 years to be served in prison after the jury announced its verdict.
This case was a reminder that while many of us are going about our daily routines, law enforcement officers run the risk that their next traffic stop could result in serious injury or death. This risk is heightened by those who flagrantly disregard the law and choose to try to escape from the consequences of their actions, instead of facing them in our justice system. I am proud of the hard work of law enforcement and my staff, including Assistant District Attorneys Ashton Fallin and Audrey Holliday in fighting so hard to bring Mr. King to justice and helping to keep us all safe. We’ll keep up that fight! Until next time, stay safe and be kind to one another.