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.