Deputies say other motorist’s safety, not shoplifting led to fatal PIT maneuver

Published 8:09 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Troup County Sheriff’s Deputies are standing by a decision to end a high-speed chase with a PIT maneuver that ended up with a suspect’s death.

On Monday, TCSO deputies became involved in a high-speed pursuit after being notified by West Point Police that they were in pursuit of a vehicle fleeing north on Interstate 85. The fleeing vehicle was reportedly traveling at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour and driving extremely recklessly weaving in and out of traffic.

Out of safety concerns for other motorists, deputies made the decision to end the pursuit with a  Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) maneuver on the vehicle near mile marker 26.

After the PIT maneuver was conducted the suspect vehicle overturned multiple times and the driver was ejected from the vehicle, fatally injuring him. Two female passengers were also injured.

The deceased male has since been identified as James Woods, 27, of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

TCSO Public Information Officer Sgt. Stewart Smith said the decisions to engage in a chase or conduct a PIT maneuver are based on weather conditions, traffic conditions, how dangerously the suspect is driving, if they can identify them for later and ultimately the safety of other motorists.

“Those calls are made by the deputy in the pursuit and supervisors,” Smith said. “They are initiated to stop the person from fleeing and also try to stop them from endangering or putting the lives of the general public in danger.”

Smith said they mostly look at traffic flow rather than speed when deciding to do a PIT maneuver.

“You can’t do it close to other vehicles that could cause the suspect’s vehicle or the deputy’s vehicle to strike an innocent civilian,” Smith said.

Smith said the suspect vehicle was traveling more than 100 MPH for quite some time, passing cars on the shoulder and weaving in and out of traffic and the emergency lanes.

The initial pursuit was reportedly over alleged felony shoplifting charges out of Columbus, Georgia. 

“We weren’t aware of those charges initially. We just knew that West Point had contacted us and they attempted to stop the vehicle and it was going over 100 MPH. Eventually, you are going to have a bad accident.” Smith said, noting that the PIT maneuver was ultimately over the reckless driving and endangering other motorists.

“The danger of him possibly injuring or killing an innocent motorist on our roads is just unacceptable,” Sheriff James Woodruff said. “The longer the chase goes on, the more likely somebody’s going to get hurt or injure an innocent bystander. Especially, if you get off the interstate and go on city or county streets or roads.”