A Sumter man suspected of driving under the influence led police on a dangerous nighttime chase for nearly 30 minutes, swerving around other cars and reaching speeds of more than 110 mph. It took two spike strips and a special police maneuver to stop him in Camden close to midnight on Aug. 17.
Just 10 hours later, Patrick Lamar Simon, 26, was released from jail.
“You cannot tell me that he will not get back into his car and drive because a piece of paper told him not to,” said Kershaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Jarrett Greenway, who was involved in the chase, referring to a court order suspending Simon’s license. “This is what we’re up against every day.”
Officers familiar with the case said by the time Simon took a breath test, he posted a blood-alcohol concentration of .06 — below the legal limit of .08 in South Carolina. Simon admitted to taking narcotics, officers said, but refused to give a urine sample.
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Charged with DUI first offense, Simon was released from Kershaw County Detention Center jail 10 a.m. the following day, police said. He could not be reached for comment.
It’s one example of the challenges facing law enforcement when it comes to how DUI cases are handled in the state.
State troopers and Kershaw County deputies were cracking down on impaired driving late that Friday night as part of the S.C. Department of Public Safety’s Sober or Slammer initiative.
A trooper stopped Simon on the side of Providence Road, about 45 miles northeast of Columbia, for avoiding a safety checkpoint, officials said. Greenway, who has won two statewide awards and one national award for his work related to DUI investigations, arrived as backup and approached the passenger side window of Simon’s silver pickup truck.
“It reeked of alcohol,” Greenway said. “Even with the window up.”
He then began preparing for the field sobriety test with two reporters there for a ride-along. Having conducted more than 300 similar investigations in his career, Greenway feels like a movie producer now, he said, making sure his dashboard camera is lined up just right and with the perfect lighting, in accordance with state law.
But it never got that far. The trooper, still standing at the driver’s side window, shouted, “Hey, Greenway!”
Then there was the loud, grinding sound of rubber tires peeling out on dirt and loose gravel over a paved shoulder.
“Whoa! Whoa! Stop!” the trooper shouted, as Simon sped away. The trooper ran back to his Dodge Charger and initiated the high-speed chase after Simon.
Greenway and the two reporters sprinted back toward his black, unmarked SUV and followed the chase close behind, reaching speeds as high as 116 mph.
Greenway and several others involved began communicating their precise location, coordinating with other officers on the road and notifying Camden police. A man’s voice came over the radio and said the first week of Camden High School football ended and traffic is long gone.
“Approaching Highway 1, I’ll let you know which way he goes,” another man’s voice said over the radio. “Highway 1 to Camden,” the voice said moments later.
A supervisor came over the radio and asked, “What’s the reason for the chase?”
“Possible DUI,” Greenway responded tersely.
While South Carolina also ranks eighth in the country for people dying as a result of high-speed chases, multiple law enforcement experts have said chasing after people suspected of DUI is not only justified, it’s expected. Drunken drivers put everyone else around them at risk.
The high-speed chase spanned two-lane back roads, narrow dirt roads and four-lane highways. Greenway’s speed was hovering between 100 and 110 mph, dropping down to 40 mph for hard 90-degree turns at four-way stops.
Police set up spike strips early in the chase in an effort to flatten his tires. But Simon managed to swerve and dodge them just in time.
“Central, let the city know that he’s dodging those (spike) sticks and make sure they get him,” Kershaw County Sheriff’s Lt. Brad Gerrald said over the radio.
The second time around, Simon blew both tires on his driver’s side.
“We got a hit on those tires,” a voice said over the radio.
Greenway pumped his fist and grunted, “Yes!”
That slowed Simon down enough for state troopers to perform a box maneuver, where four patrol cars surround Simon’s truck on all sides, and forced him to a stop. The Highway Patrol, Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office and Camden Police Department were all involved with the chase.
Simon was charged with a DUI first offense and released the next day, officials familiar with the case said.
Deputies see these kind of situations all the time, said Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews. In some cases, it isn’t long until deputies come across the same person suspected of driving under the influence again — sometimes even the next day, he said.
“You lose your license (after you post bond), but ....” He paused. “That doesn’t stop people from driving. We catch people driving under suspension all the time. They just take the chance.”