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Wilmington man involved in chase that killed cop sentenced

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A drug dealer involved in the chase that led to the death of a Wilmington Police officer will spend 20 years in federal prison.

A judge in Raleigh sentenced Eric Grant Smith, 28, of Wilmington earlier this week. Smith pleaded guilty in January to possession with the intent to distribute more than 50 kilograms of marijuana.

In February 2009, investigators say Smith was a passenger in a car that led Wilmington Police on a chase. Wilmington Police Officer Rich Matthews died when he lost control of his cruiser while responding to a call for assistance.

"Eric Smith broke the law, and due to his actions, we lost a great police officer. This outcome will provide some sense of closure for the men and women of the Wilmington Police Department," Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said in a statement. "Justice has been served."

Prosecutors say Smith was a leader of a drug trafficking organization that was importing high quality marijuana in bulk amounts from Canada through New York to be distributed in various locations throughout North Carolina. They say Smith was responsible for distributing more than 400 kilograms of marijuana following his release from federal prison in 2007 until February, 2009. The marijuana was transported in hockey bags in the amounts of 20 and 40 kilograms.

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