No comment: Sheriff mum after 90mph chase for graffiti suspect
On March 1, an Augusta County sheriff's deputy launched a chase that blew through eight red lights as it traveled through residential and shopping areas and hit speeds reaching 90mph, according to a story in the News Virginian. The chase resulted in the arrest, according to the story, of 18-year-old Sahvannah Nargi, who, along with Christopher Holcomb, allegedly spray-painted graffiti in Staunton. (In a related story by WHSV television, business owners breathe a sign of relief that two alleged vandals have been nabbed.)
And yet none of a Hook reporter's telephone calls placed to Augusta Sheriff Randall Fisher–- calls placed every day or two since the chase–- has been returned. A Freedom of Information Act request sent via email has gone unanswered.
In 1992, a chase by a Waynesboro officer named Joseph A. Thomas resulted, after Thomas ran a red light, in a collision which killed 19-year-old Rachel Zawhorodny. A jury, which was prevented from hearing testimony conjecturing a 67mph alleged speed, ruled in Thomas' favor in a civil trial.
One family endured the horror of losing a father and son in a controversial chase in front of Madison County High School in the early 1990s.
Last year, an 85mph chase on Charlottesville's residential Rugby Road nearly killed three people and caused over $100,000 in property damage, but Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo declared it "reasonable based on the totality of the circumstance."
Then, on March 14 of this year, a short chase that began south of the Louisa County town of Mineral, with an initial alleged transgression of traveling 65 mph in a 45-mph zone, led to the death of a male front-seat passenger, 22-year-old James J. Wolf Jr., of Powhatan.
Police pursuits rein in many criminals. They also create death and destruction. The key question the Hook wants to ask Sheriff Fisher is whether he considers the grafitti suspect chase an acceptable risk.
The reporter has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any relevant dashcam videos.
–updated 8:06am March 8 with report of 1992 pursuit death
–updated 3:56pm March 9 with report of Sheriff's unwillingness to respond
–updated 11:08am March 16 with report of death in Louisa