By Linda Looney-Bond
A Clayton County Police chase review board will investigate the Wednesday night pursuit of a suspect, who later allegedly caused a deadly crash on Old National Highway in Fulton County.
The review is standard procedure, according to police spokesperson, Lt. Rebecca Brown. Brown said the officers involved in the chase acted according to police policy when they pursued Christian Ree Harris, 24, of Fayetteville.
Zannie Hatcher, 73, and her daughter, Bonnie Vicks, 57, both of College Park, were killed when Harris allegedly hit their Saturn head-on around 9:30 p.m., on Old National Highway, according to Fulton County Police Sgt. Scott McBride.
Harris was driving a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck that had been reported stolen from Riverdale, according to Brown.
The chase started earlier, after Clayton County officers observed Harris on Old Dixie Highway, near Interstate 75, allegedly impeding traffic while he talked to two women in an area known for prostitution, according to Brown.
"When officers approached the vehicle on foot, the driver accelerated the vehicle, fleeing from officers, going onto I-75 and I-285, exiting at Old National Highway," Brown said, in a statement.
"Officers were 150 to 200 yards behind the vehicle as he [Harris] continued to flee. When officers caught up to the vehicle, the driver had impacted one vehicle head-on, and struck another vehicle that was sitting in a turn lane," Brown's statement said.
Brown said Harris ran from the truck and was apprehended by officers, then Tasered by personnel from the Clayton County Sheriff's Office when he allegedly continued to resist arrest.
Harris was then taken into custody, and was being held at the Clayton County Jail, facing 19 charges in Clayton County, including numerous traffic violations, according to Brown.
"We are investigating vehicular homicide charges," said Sgt. Scott McBride, of the Fulton County Police. "It takes a while to do the investigation, but he's not going anywhere, and that gives us time to make a really strong case against him," he said.
Brown said that, according to Clayton County Police policy, officers are "authorized to pursue when someone violates a traffic law or a criminal law, and the vehicle being pursued would present a serious danger to the community if not apprehended."
"Initially, one officer was in pursuit, with a trainee in the passenger seat," Brown said in a phone interview on Thursday. "Another officer joined the pursuit at 285 and Riverdale Road," she said. She said the officers acted according to policy during the pursuit.
Brown said the names of the officers were not being released, but said they are still on the job.
"My office is going to be looking at the policies around chase-training, and the command associated with it," said Eldrin Bell, Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners. "I have directed Chief Cohilas [Chief of Staff] to review all of the information associated with it, including the 9-1-1 tapes," Bell said.
John D. Menefee, 63, Pastor of Union Grove Baptist Church in Union City, said the two women killed - Zannie Hatcher, and her daughter, Bonnie Vicks- were members of his church for many years.
"We are right now in Revival Service this week and they were out at the Revival Service last night [Wednesday night]. They were in the midst of taking their [Hatcher's] granddaughter home, and on their way back, when the accident happened. We will be holding a session tonight in order to encourage each other," Menefee said Thursday. The church is located at 6591 T.A. Davis Avenue, in Union City.
"Because we're not very large, we have a very tight-knit church family," he said. "People have been calling all day, upset about it. It has really upset the church members, but we are really pulling together to support one another.
"To most people, it is senseless that it happened the way it did. I have asked myself, 'Why do they have to run,'" he said. "It can't be that bad, to get a ticket or get fined. To run like that, and end up losing somebody's life, that is just senseless," Menefee said.
"I know the police officers are out there working as hard as they can. I'm not coming down on the police officers, and the way it went down," he said. "But I need to find all the details as to what brought about the chase."
- Staff writer Joel Hall contributed to this report.