District Attorney defends deputies after deadly high-speed chase

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — This weekend’s high-speed police chase and subsequent death of an innocent bystander has raised questions about whether the pursuit was necessary. New Hanover District Attorney Ben David spoke about the incident Monday.

51-year-old Sean Evans was thrown from his Jeep after 39-year-old Thomas Willoughby Jr. crashed into him while being pursued by law enforcement. Evans was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The only person responsible for the death of Sean Evans is Thomas Willoughby Jr.,” David said.

The District Attorney defended law enforcement for their decision to chase after Willoughby after he allegedly committed armed robbery at the Walmart in Porters Neck.

“I’ll answer the question that some have of what these officers were doing in pursuing these defendants after that armed robbery with again, just two words: their job,” David said.

David says this is not the first time someone has died in New Hanover County as a result of a high speed chase. In 2009, Wilmington Police Officer Richard Matthews was killed in the line of duty.

“I made sure that I went to every police agency I advise to talk to them about chases, and to make sure that we’re not putting the community at unnecessary risk,” David said.

The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office’s current pursuit policy was put in place in 2014 and revised earlier this month. It states the decision whether or not to chase a suspect vehicle is left up to a deputy’s discretion based on a variety of factors including weather and road conditions, traffic, potential danger to the public, the severity of the crime, whether the suspect has been identified and can be arrested later, among other guidelines.

“I ask this community to consider what they expect of officers when there is a crime of violence and an impaired driver on the roads, and whether or not they have a duty to apprehend that individual,” David said.

WWAY reached out to friends of the victim, who said neither they nor any family members wished to comment at that time.

Willoughby is facing multiple charges, including first degree murder. He is being held with no bond.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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