Further details on chase and death

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, February 16, 2021

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Polk Sheriff’s Office clarifies last week’s car chase and death

GREEN CREEK—The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is clarifying some points about last week’s police pursuit that ended in the death of Wayne Keith Smith, Jr., 38, of Campobello, S.C. 

The Polk County Sheriff Deputy pursued Smith beginning in Green Creek last Tuesday night for a traffic violation and Smith ran into a tree on Ray Blackley Road in Inman, S.C. 

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Polk County Sheriff’s Office Staff Attorney and Public Information Officer John Sauve sent a press release this week to clarify some questions. He said the matter is being investigated by the South Carolina Highway Patrol’s Traffic Crash Reconstruction Team and the Polk office cannot make any further comments about any details of the investigation. 

Some of the questions Sauve answered include how many deputies were involved in the pursuit. 

One Deputy was involved in the pursuit,” Sauve said. “The Deputy requested the assistance of Spartanburg County and South Carolina Highway Patrol as the pursuit approached the South Carolina state line, however, no other units were in the area before the traffic crash occurred. Several other Deputies in Polk County checked enroute to assist with the pursuit, but none of them made it to the area before the traffic crash occurred.”

Sauve said the pursuit from Polk County lasted for less than 2 minutes from the time the Polk deputy called in the attempted traffic stop until the crash occurred. 

“The Polk County Sheriff’s Office vehicle was not involved in the crash itself,” Sauve said. “There was no damage to the Polk County Sheriff’s vehicle, and the pursuing Deputy called over the radio for fire/rescue/EMS response for the traffic crash.”

Another questioned was what was the reason for the attempted traffic stop? 

Sauve said the deputy clocked the suspected vehicle doing 77 mph in a 45 mph zone with a RADAR unit that the deputy was certified to operate. Sauve said the area of the speeding was in a primarily residential area of Green Creek near the South Carolina state line. 

Sauve said he has also been asked why the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations is not investigating the chase and death. 

“The NCSBI investigates criminal matters and deadly uses of force by law enforcement officers in North Carolina, and even in North Carolina, the NC Highway Patrol investigates fatal traffic crashes, not the NC SBI,” Sauve said this week. “This traffic crash occurred in South Carolina, and the South Carolina Highway Patrol is conducting the independent traffic crash investigation, including completion of a traffic crash reconstruction.”