COVINGTON, Ga. — The sheriff's office is investigating whether a deputy followed the agency’s vehicle pursuit policies in initiating a multi-county chase in Newton County that resulted in a woman's death when a suspected car thief wrecked near Lithonia Sunday.
The victim was a back seat passenger and was ejected from the fleeing vehicle while the suspect and another passenger were seriously injured.
The injuries occurred after the vehicle in which they were traveling led officers from Newton County and Georgia State Patrol on a 16-mile chase through Newton, Rockdale and DeKalb counties before striking a truck head-on near Lithonia, the GSP reported.
Newton County Sheriff's Office and GSP were working today to confirm the victim’s identity and notify her next of kin before identifying her publicly.
The suspect driver, Ronreaco W. Bailey, 30, of Madison, and front seat passenger, Jatina Banks, 31, whose address was not given, had to be extricated from the stolen Volkswagen Passat SE they were in. They were transported to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta with serious injuries, the GSP reported.
Caitlin Jett, spokesperson for the Newton County Sheriff's Office, said the incident began when a Newton County deputy was assisting the Covington Police Department in responding to a stolen vehicle alert sent by a Flock camera from an undisclosed location Sunday morning. The deputy attempted a traffic stop on the vehicle but the suspect fled, Jett said.
The vehicle had been stolen from a Brandon, Mississippi, resident, a sheriff's office report stated.
A pursuit then began around 11:25 a.m. at I-20 Westbound at the U.S. Hwy. 278 exit (Exit 90), Jett and the GSP reported.
A trooper was assisting the deputy and the trooper became the primary officer in the pursuit near Sigman Road on I-20 West in Rockdale County, the GSP reported.
"The driver took exit 75 to Turner Hill Road and disregarded the red traffic signal, entering back on to I-20 West," a GSP spokesman said.
"While continuing to drive extremely recklessly and with disregard to the safety of others, the driver exited off I-20 West at Exit 74 disregarding another red traffic signal at the intersection with Evans Mill Road.
"The pursuit continued west on Old Hillandale Drive approaching the intersection with Lithonia Industrial (Boulevard) where the driver again disregarded a red traffic signal," the spokesman said.
At that point a Ford Superduty, with a Ford Explorer in tow, was traveling south on Lithonia Industrial Boulevard approaching the intersection with Old Hillandale Drive.
The front bumper of the Passat struck the left front side of the trailer towing the Explorer in the right lane of Lithonia Industrial Boulevard south, the spokesman said.
"After impact, the Passat began to overturn into the south ditch of Old Hillandale Drive. The right rear passenger was ejected from the Passat and pronounced deceased on (the) scene."
The driver and front seat passenger were extracted and transported to Grady by ambulance with serious injuries. The Superduty's driver sustained minor injuries but refused treatment.
GSP's Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team also responded and were investigating.
"At this time charges are pending and a thorough investigation is being conducted," the spokesman stated.
Jett said the Newton County sheriff's Office of Professional Standards "will conduct an investigation to determine whether the deputy adhered to the agency’s policies and procedures" before beginning the pursuit.
"On behalf of Sheriff Ezell Brown and the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, I send our deepest condolences to the family of the deceased victim," Jett said.