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Officer's crash raises questions after precedent-setting trial

READ MORE: Officer's crash raises questions after precedent-setting trial

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- It was a close call for a Wilmington police officer on his way to help out on a chase early yesterday morning. Coincidently it played out very much like the Anthony Pierce chase that led to Ofc. Rich Matthews's death. That case led to an unprecedented murder conviction.

At 2:55 a.m. on Wednesday, Ofc. Peter Schwarz headed east on Market Street on his to back up a fellow officer involved in a pursuit.
He turned right on Darlington Avenue and that's as far as he got, crashing into this telephone pole, Schwarz received minor injuries.

But what if that officer had died when he crashed into this pole? Could that person who led police on this chase be charged with murder?

"We are confident that the precedent that was set today is one that will protect police officers and send a strong message to the people who flee from them that you need to stop or live with the consequences," District Attorney Ben David said May 6 after a jury convicted Pierce for Matthews's murder. Matthews was on his way to assist in a chase, but died when he crashed trying to avoid a box in the road.

With similar circumstance in both chases we reached out to the WPD and the District Attorney's office to see what they thought about the recent chase. The police department refused to talk with us on camera, saying the case was pending, but in a news release it did say, "Schwarz was not traveling at a high rate of speed, but he probably took the turn too fast."

As for the the District Attorney's office, David said he could see the connection, but wasn't comfortable "yet" commenting on the recent chase turned crash.

So with a precedent set in the Pierce murder trial, the question now is who will be held responsible in this recent crash and the others that may follow. Can the district attorney goes as far as making the fleeing suspect pay for the damaged police cruiser, or even the officer's hospital bills.

The police department is conducting an investigation of Wednesday's crash. If it's determined that the crash could have been preventable, the officer may be disciplined.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.



These comments are soooo funny..... but so true! I think it is ridiculous for Anthony Pierce to have been charged with Murder of any degree due to the death of an officer that was driving at a high rate of speed, at night and while the road was wet.... it had been raining outside! Mr. Pierce couldnt have been driving that fast he was apprehended! I think that New Hanover County sheriff's department as well as the WPD use thier positions as positions of power and feel as if they are above the law.... they speed, I have seen many of them turn on the siren at a red light and make you move out of thier way as if there is an emergency and then once through the light the siren is off and they are on thier merry way! I am all for protecting and serving but your just average tax paying citizens like everyone else.... and for the person who made the comment about the Fire Department! I was thinking the same thing!!!

EVOC rule #1 Due Regard while exceeding speed limits

Having been through EVOC as an Emergency Worker I guess I need to remind the officer who posted earlier as well as the WPD there is a standard its called Due Regard. When Responding Emergently you must still use due care which means not driving excessively beyond the safe limits of your own abilities or the vehicle you are driving. If the driver of an Emergency vehicle (Fire Engine, Ambulance, Police Car) fails to use due regard and car when responding then they can be held liable. Why the Defense atty in the most recent case didnt bring this up amazes me. As for the cop who wrecked the other night he likely exceeded due regard. Just because your vehicle has lights and sirens (oh and BTW the letter of the law says you cant exceed the speed limit without both in use period otherwise you are violating the law as well, just a reminder for those who think that they can speed just because they are behind the wheel of said Vehicle). I still feel bad for the officers family who died on Shipyard but that guy in no way was directly or indirectly responsible for his death the officer was driving wreckless and dangerously at over 100mph in a 45mph zone (which by any commonsense violates due regard at the speed he was driving the dopplar effect of his siren if it was even in use would have been negated by his speed meaning somebody could have pulled out in front of him and had NO WARNING before they got hit by him) Sorry its the truth like it or not and if these officers continue to drive this way they need to go back to Driving training school and get a refresher on proper emergency vehicle operations.

License to Speed... I was

License to Speed... I was going to work today on 421 from Brunswick County. An unmarked Dodge Charger with state tags passed me on the bridge near the Battleship, I was doing 60. The car turned onto the Holmes Bridge zigzagging in and out of traffic to exit onto MLK. They then proceeded exceed the posted speed limit, passing in and out of cars.

It would seem they are above the law. Just because you are in a law enforcement vehicle you are not entitled to break traffic laws. I suppose the taxpayers will repair the police car that was wrecked. If it was the fault of the officer, it should come out of his pay.

cop wrecks car in another chase

Another cop that can not drive!! Let's send these guys to drivers education. Why wasn't the guy that was being chased charged with the accident?? I guess this means now, that if your house is on fire, and you call the Fire Dept, and on their way FLYING TO GET TO YOUR HOUSE AND THEY CRASH, THEN SOMEHOW IT'S THE HOMEOWNER'S FAULT? Wake up people!! You are getiing carried away!!

The Pierce case will end up

The Pierce case will end up getting the felony murder law in NC ruled unconstitutional. Ben David just weakened the law because he wants to make a name for himself, and applied it to a situation for which it was never intended.

The officer yesterday was exceeding a safe speed, by the WPD's own admission. He made a bad decision and crashed his patrol vehicle. I believe Mattews made a bad decision too, going over 100 MPH on a city street, giving him little reaction time to avoid an accident. It's terrible he died, but I feel it was a poor choice to drive so fast in a 45 MPH zone.

The bottom line it that the officers chose to drive too fast for the existing road conditions. Yesterday, the officer was going too fast to make a turn. Officer Matthews was going too fast at night, when visibility was reduced by the darkness where he couldn't see any possible obstacles in the road. The poor choices by these officers were major contributing factors in their crashes.

Felony Murder Rule

the felony murder rule only applies to 1st degree murder. This was 2nd. It is the unintentional killing of another with malice. The case laws list situations such as DWI and reckless driving as the malice.

Officer Schwarz' Accident

He's a Goalie! What do you expect?!

I will be getting all my

I will be getting all my news from wect channel 6 from know on

cop crashes car

you mean to tell me that the police arent charging the suspect in the chase with attemted murder.

Again..another Bad Driver for the City Police Department

"Schwarz was not traveling at a high rate of speed, but he probably took the turn too fast."

So now the Police department is admitting THIS time that this was an accident caused by the what if the officer had killed or hurt someone in the process, would he be facing charges as Mr. Pierce did..these police officers are not equipped to drive in high pursuit chases..they need to go back to the training academy and 101 defensive driving..and Im interested to know what backup he was responding to and what charges the criminal faced??..why are they pursing somone through wilmington streets at high speed chases..these cops have too big of egos...


You want to know why officers are pursuing someone through the wilmington streets at high speeds. Its very simple. So you can sleep peacefully at night warm and safe in your home and so you can arm chair quarterback us when we make human mistakes. Officers receive more drivers training than anyone would believe. We are human. Mistakes happen. Wrecks happen in NASCAR and look how much training they have. So why you sit and complain about WPD and officer egos, please enjoy your dinner and sleep peacefully tonight knowing that even though you think officers have large egos, when you call 911, we are still going to respond as fast as necessary to protect your life and the life of your family.

And no I don't work for WPD. I am however an officer and proud to say it.

Sleep peacefully

What country are you in??? You have to lock all your doors bolt your windows and turn on the alarm system and pray that nothing happens to you while you are trying to sleep.. You police think that you do so much for us. Its a good thing this country gives us a right to bear arms. because the police are in the news for illegal actions everyday. It should be against the law for you to even have high speed chases unless there was a murder involved. exspecailly in the city where there are alot of traffic. I think the officer should be sited for reckless and endangerment. The WPD even said he took the turn to fast.. CHARGE HIM!!!!!

I agree chases should be

I agree chases should be outlawed. You are putting far more people in danger with the chase, innocent people. I am curious if the police usually face charges when their chase leads to the injury or death of an innocent bystander?

No, in New Hanover County

No, in New Hanover County that would mean that the suspect they are chasing gets charged with that murder too.

WPD is NOT Nascar..

sorry but thats the whole issue..sometimes fast as necessary is not needed ALL the time..I understand your point but to have accidents with police officers driving is not making me sleep any peaceful..might wake up and find a police car sitting in my living room..and WPD officers dont have the best track lately in defensive driving..

Im sick of wwaytv3!

Im sick of wwaytv3!

re: I'm tired of WWAY

If you're tired of WWAY, QUIT WATCHING!!
So funny.......


i am just waiting for some totally innocent bystander to get maimed or killed by one of these officers in pursuit. maybe when the city gets sued, or an officer is convicted of murder, they will SLOW THE HELL DOWN. there are better ways of dealing with those who flee. and what about the damn helicopter?? where was that during these chases?????

Karma Back To Ya

So when you call 911 while someone is breaking into your house, they'll just drive the speed limit to get to your for me....

I have my on form of 911 if

I have my on form of 911 if someone is trying to break into my home. It comes in the form of the right to keep and bear arms.

The cops can take their time

The cops can take their time and even stop at Krispy Kreme. If somebody is breaking into my home, all that will be needed is the coroner.