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Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - September 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company


Child killed in high-speed pursuit

Trinity Standard -

TRINITY – An 11-year-old Jungle Village boy was killed last week after taking his father’s pickup and crashing during a high-speed police pursuit. Scott Allen Williford, a sixth grader in the Groveton school system, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash by Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Bobby Nicholds. According to Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Chad Seamans, the mishap occurred about half a mile west of the Boon Town Road intersection on Highway 94. Seamans confirmed that experts from the Texas Department of Public Safety had conducted a reconstruction of the accident. The fatal crash ended a high-speed pursuit that began on FM 356 in Trinity when Pct. 1 Deputy Constable Rusty Barrett spotted a pickup traveling in a “very erratic” manner. Pct. 1 Constable Woody Wallace said there were a number of rumors being circulated about the pursuit and in an effort to put at least some of them to rest, allowed Trinity Standard Editor Greg Peak to view the video recorded by Barrett’s patrol car during the incident. “There is one story out there that the officer bumped the pickup off the road and caused the crash,” Wallace said. “That’s just not true.” Because of the child was killed during a police pursuit, Wallace said he has asked the Texas Rangers to investigate the matter. “We also will be presenting this to the Trinity County grand jury for them to review. We’ll let a panel of Trinity County residents look at this video and other evidence then decide if we did anything wrong.” Wallace said the incident seems to be dividing the town with some people angry about the chase and others defending the actions of the officers. “This was a very tragic incident and I hope everyone can back off and give the families time to grieve,” he said. The constable noted that the boy’s parents are divorced and that he was living with his father in Jungle Village east of Trinity while his mother resides off Highway 94 in Trinity. “Neither sets of parents are involved in the rumors and accusations that are being made. They have lost a child and everyone needs to be considerate of them at this time.” Wallace said and the video confirms that the chase began about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 24, near the sharp, 90-degree curve where FM 356 turns off Pegoda Road and becomes Emory Street. “Rusty had turned off of Highway 94 onto 356 and as he approached the sharp curve, he spotted a pickup driving erratically coming around the curve in the opposite direction,” Wallace said. The constable said the deputy reported that it wasn’t until he had turned his patrol car around that he realized the pickup matched the description of one reported stolen that night in the Jungle Village subdivision. “What he knew at that time was that the truck had been reported stolen and that it was possibly being driven by the owner’s 11-year-old son,” Wallace said. The patrol’s car’s dash-mounted camera was activated when Barrett turned on his emergency lights and siren to begin the pursuit. It shows that by the time he turned around at the curve, the pickup had already reached the Highway 94 intersection and was turning east toward Groveton. Wallace noted that there was some speculation that the boy was trying to get to his mother’s house off Highway 94 but the video shows that he never slowed down as he passed the residence. “In every case that I have encountered where a child planned to run to his or her mamma, that is exactly what they did. If they were being chased, they would expect mamma to protect them,” Wallace said. During the days after the mishap, information was obtained indicating the boy may have intended to drive to Groveton from the start. “He went to school in Groveton and we have now learned that he may have had a girlfriend there. They apparently had some kind of breakup that day and the boy was upset over a relationship problem. “We will never know for sure, but it is possible he had planned to drive to Groveton to talk with the girl,” Wallace said. During the 10-minute long pursuit, the video shows that Barrett’s car never got closer than about 50 feet to the pickup. During most of the chase, about 100 or more feet separated the two vehicles. Several times when the pickup appeared to be slowing down, Barrett’s car appeared to also slow and allow a bigger gap to occur. “Rusty would slow down in hopes the boy would stop but in every case, the pickup would speed back up,” Wallace said. The constable noted at one point, Barrett reported his patrol car reached a speed of 105 miles per hour. “That happened once while he was trying to catch back up. The pickup wasn’t going that fast,” he said, adding he believe that most of the chase occurred in the 80 to 85 mile per hour range. As the pursuit moved through Trinity, an observer riding with Barrett called Wallace on his cell phone to report the incident. Wallace noted he was attending a volleyball game at the Trinity High School gym and got the call just as the pursuit moved past the school on Highway 94. The constable said he got to his car as quickly as possible and was perhaps a minute or two behind Barrett. During the chase, a number of westbound cars were encountered, and all managed to pull off onto the shoulder as the speeding pickup and constable car approached. On the video, the pickup was unable to stay within the eastbound lane. Dirt and rocks can be seen kicking up as the passenger-side tires left the pavement and hit the shoulder. When that would happen, the young driver would overcorrect and the pickup would move to the left and cross the center stripe of the highway. One eastbound car that pulled off the road near the FM 3188 intersection appears to have almost been struck by the pickup as it once against rolled onto the shoulder as it passed. “A lot of people are saying we should have backed off and not pursued the pickup,” Wallace said. “But the only warning the other cars had was the flashing red and blue lights on Rusty’s patrol car. That was the reason everyone was pulling off onto the shoulder and getting out of the way.” Wallace said there was no way to know if the boy would have slowed down had the deputy constable ended the chase. He noted in California, it has been discovered that when police end a high speed pursuit, the car they were chasing often continues at a high speed for quite some time to put distance between them and law enforcement officers. Shortly before the chase ends tragically, the video shows the pickup and Barrett’s car passing the residence of Seamans. At that point, the Texas Highway Patrol trooper is in his car, which is sitting in the driveway facing the highway. As the case passed, the trooper joined the pursuit but only moments later, the young driver totally lost control of the pickup. The vehicle went into a skid as it turned to the side and began rolling. Barrett can be heard on the video on his radio reporting the crash and calling for an ambulance while the wreck was still taking place. The deputy constable quickly brought his car to a stop and ran to the pickup. He was soon joined by Seamans and a few moments later by Wallace. The constable said he believes that all of the officers involved acted in a professional manner and according to state law. “The officers had a duty to try and stop the vehicle as well as warn other motorist/pedestrians that danger was approaching,” Wallace said in a formal statement issued after the accident. “Everyone involved is devastated and needs support as well as prayers from the entire community,” he added.

 

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