Thursday, October 2, 2008
Suspect dies after rollover
By SUE WATSON
A suspect fleeing law enforcement units Monday evening after an attempted robbery of a country store on Highway 178 East died after losing control of his vehicle, according to Sheriff Kenny Dickerson.
He said 911 dispatchers received a call from the store owner at 1425 Highway 178 East at about 7 p.m. advising there was an attempted robbery at the location.
John Russo, 42, of 1036 CR 53, Myrtle, entered Lake Center Grocery with a beer can in one hand and the other hand behind his back and told the owner, “Give me your money. Put it in a bag,” Dickerson said.
The owner told Russo, “no,” and the suspect repeated his demand for money several times.
“At this point, the owner brandished a weapon and chased the suspect out of the store and pursued him outside where he got the tag number and description of the vehicle and called 911,” Dickerson said.
At this, Russo fled the store travelling west on Highway 178.
Units from the sheriff’s office responded to the 911 incident report with Major Kelly McMillan driving eastward along with several other units. After sighting the Russo’s vehicle, McMillan turned around and pursued the vehicle along with several other units back toward Holly Springs, Dickerson said.
Russo turned on East Boundary with units in pursuit with blue lights and sirens turned on, according to law enforcement procedure, the sheriff said. The suspect then turned off East Boundary onto Salem Avenue and continued at a high rate of speed in the direction of Highway 4 East. Russo lost control of his vehicle in a sharp curve near the hospital and rolled the Toyota over several times on highway right-of-way.
Dickerson said medical personnel and law enforcement officers checked immediately on Russo’s condition after his vehicle came to rest.
“It appears from reports available to me at that Russo died as a result of apparent injuries received in the rollover,” Dickerson said.
After a complete review of circumstances from the beginning to the end of the incident, Dickerson said all officers involved in the chase followed current state law and sound police procedures by activating their blue lights and sirens.
“In my opinion, Russo knew without question he was being pursued and he knew the reason why,” Dickerson said. “He had every opportunity to stop for law enforcement authorities and failed to do so and as a result of his actions, it cost him his life.
“While the loss of life is tragic in any circumstance, I do feel unequivocally that law enforcement used every precaution possible to apprehend Russo prior to his flight from officers.”
Dickerson said no weapon was recovered from Russo’s vehicle, and he believes Russo was pretending he had a weapon behind his back when he demanded money from the store owner.
“The owner’s description of the suspect and the vehicle and tag number he provided were very helpful in clearing this case,” Dickerson said.
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