Summerville, SC — A horrifying police dashcam was released from a fatal incident this week showing Berkeley County deputy James Vansant ramming a motorcycle twice with his cruiser. The strikes caused the motorcyclist, 30-year-old Robert Lee Clark, Jr. of Goose Creek, to crash. He was immediately killed.
The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office posted a video to their YouTube page on Thursday, showing the Wednesday night police pursuit lasting at least five minutes in Summerville, South Carolina. The chase reached speeds of at least 111 miles per hour and it was all initiated over a minor speeding charge.
The pursuit began when Vansant saw Clark going 66mph on his motorcycle in a 45-zone, Chief Deputy Mike Cochran said, WCSC reported.
The dash camera video shows Clark braking hard abruptly before speeding off multiple times during the approximately 8-mile chase. Toward the end of the chase, Clark brakes again, at which point Vansant’s cruiser rams the motorcycle at a speed of around 90 miles per hour.
Then, at the 5:26 mark, Clark is seen being slightly thrown forward as his bike slows down and is once again rammed by Vansant’s vehicle. Clark, not wearing a helmet, veers right apparently in an attempt to drive between a pulled-over vehicle and the sidewalk, but he crashes and is thrown to the sidewalk.
Although Vansant is on paid administrative leave, the department is already attempting to blame the overt case of vehicular homicide on Clark’s practice of changing gears.
As WCSC reports, when the motorcyclist attempted to accelerate away, the operator appears to have missed a gear while the motorcycle continued to slow, causing contact between the motorcycle and the front right corner of the deputy’s vehicle, Cochran said.
According to ABC News 4, deputy Vansant in his report only mentioned contacting the motorcycle once prior to the crash. The sheriff’s office in its official statement on the incident also only mentions one instance of contact between Vansant’s vehicle and the motorcycle.
However, the dash cam clearly shows Vansant hit Clark two times. After hitting him the first time, Vansant should’ve stopped the pursuit. However, he did not.
Police later released the information that they found 55 grams of a green plant material and a rolled cigarette on Clark — in some futile attempt to justify ending his life.
According to South Carolina’s rules of engagement for police chases, this should’ve never happened.
According to their policy, “the pursuit is justified only when the necessity of the apprehension of a suspect outweighs the risks created by the pursuit.”
The primary pursuit officer, according to the policy, is responsible for that decision, which requires them to consider nine circumstances and conditions.
Among these conditions are: the seriousness of the original offense that led to the pursuit, the presence and volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and the presence of passengers in the fleeing vehicle.
The dangers presented in police officers chasing motorcycles are so high, in fact, that many states have policies of non-pursuit: meaning they can actually get in trouble for chasing high-speed motorcycles.
Vansant initiated and caused a dangerous pursuit over a minor speeding infraction. Clark was not some international terrorist on his way to blow up a school. He was simply speeding — and now, he’s dead.
When Vansant initiated and maintained this pursuit, he put his life, clearly Clark’s life, and everyone else’s lives who came near the pair during the chase, in danger — to issue a speeding citation.
As you watch the graphic video below, remember that it could’ve all been avoided had Vansant simply taken down Clark’s license plate number and found him later. Luckily no one else was killed during this entirely preventable atrocity.
The full unedited video is the second video below.