GREENSBORO — The new way police chases will be handled by the Guilford County Sheriff's Office is drawing praise from the families of two women who were involved in a Battleground Avenue pursuit almost two years ago that ended their lives and three others.
Under the new policy from Sheriff Danny Rogers, deputies won't be permitted to engage in pursuits involving crimes that are simple, nonviolent misdemeanors such as shoplifting. It was a report of a stolen vehicle which initiated the Battleground Avenue chase just before midnight on a Saturday in September 2017.
However, for serious crimes or if a person is considered violent — a carjacker, for instance — that would be justification for a deputy to initiate a pursuit.
"Sheriff Rogers was open to our suggestions," said attorney Drew Brown, who represents the families of Stephanie Louise Warshauer and Alyssa Mackenzie Bolick. "The concept is you can get the criminal later. You don't need to involve Battleground, Saturday night and 130 miles per hour."
The policy took effect in May. The families of Warshauer and Bolick began pushing for the changes after the Sept. 30, 2017 accident that left five people dead, saying they wanted to see something good come from the tragedy.
Phil Warshauer, whose daughter Stephanie was driving the Optima that was hit, was interviewed as part of a new training video which deputies will see annually. He has said that he also wanted to see law enforcement officers be able to go home at night to their families.
“What keeps me going is Stephanie’s strength,” Warshauer said at the time of the crash. “She would be very upset that she lost a friend, and she would say, ‘Dad, how can that happen?’
“She would say, ‘Dad, don’t let that happen again.’”
Investigators say an Acura driven by Deshon Lee Manuel was trying to evade Deputy C. Lineback's Dodge Charger as he sped through a light at the intersection of Battleground Avenue and New Garden Road at 130 mph when it struck the Optima carrying Warshauer and Bolick with enough force to push the car another 200 feet.
Manuel along with his two passengers — Theresa Monique Kingcade and Bruce Wayne Hunt — died at the scene.
A wrongful death suit by the estate of Kingcade was dismissed this spring without prejudice, meaning it can be refiled within a year.
The lawsuit blamed the officer for setting off a chain of events that ended in the deaths.
Most kinds of lawsuits against the state and individuals acting in a government capacity — such as law enforcement — are covered by sovereign immunity.
"It's an awful set of circumstances," said attorney Richard C. Metcalf, who represented Kingcade's family.
Barnes defended his deputy at the time, saying the people inside the Acura drew the deputy's attention because he could see them ducking at times and looking in his direction. And when the vehicle between them moved over as traffic began to flow, the Acura also moved over, keeping a car between them.
The deputy said at the time he steered his patrol car behind the Acura and ran the license plate number through a police database.
The vehicle then turned into a nearby apartment complex.
“He’s thinking there’s something not right here,” Barnes said of the deputy at the time.
As the Acura exited the apartment complex onto Battleground Avenue, it headed in the opposite direction. It was then that Lineback was alerted the car had been reported stolen.
The Acura accelerated. A chase ensued.
Lineback activated his siren and lights, which also turned on his dashboard camera.
As was policy at the time, the deputy radioed in to a supervisor. The supervisor didn’t have time to respond, Barnes said, because the chase had barely started when it ended 62 seconds later in the deadly crash.