The district attorney in Whitfield County has decided not to pursue charges against a Whitfield County sheriff's deputy who performed a PIT maneuver during a high-speed chase in February that ended with two people dead.
A PIT maneuver, or precision immobilization technique, is a tactic in which a pursuing officer uses his or her cruiser to push the fleeing vehicle's rear end sideways with the nose of the cruiser, sending the suspect's vehicle into a spin.
District Attorney Bert Poston and his office investigated the case as a potentially excessive use of force, similar to when an officer shoots and kills someone while on duty.
This was the first of its kind for Poston, and the process involved reviewing the incident reports and figuring out whether the deputy who performed the PIT maneuver did so in a way that reflected the department's policy.
On a Thursday night in February, Zachary Lumpkin was on the run from law enforcement in a 1992 Ford Ranger with a warrant out for his arrest.
Lumpkin failed to appear in court for charges of possession of stolen property, driving with a suspended license and possession of a firearm.
Whitfield County Deputy Christopher Hicks, normally assigned to the department's drug unit, was on patrol due to a recent officer shortage, according to Sheriff Scott Chitwood.
Shadow Stanley, 20, was in the passenger seat as Lumpkin fled from police. During the chase, Hicks made the decision to execute the maneuver.
Lumpkin's Ranger slid sideways, went airborne and hit an electric pole before coming to a crashing stop on its hood near the intersection of Highway 41 and Little John Lane. Both Lumpkin and Stanley died.
Lumpkin and Stanley were the fourth and fifth people within eight months in Whitfield County to die as a result of law enforcement using the PIT maneuver.
After reviewing the case, Poston found "the conduct of Detective Hicks and other officers involved in the pursuit was objectively reasonable under the totality of the facts and circumstances known to them at the time and that the use of a pursuit intervention technique maneuver to end the chase was legally justified."
Poston pointed out that Lumpkin had five prior felony convictions and two active felony warrants, and deputies had reason to believe that he would have a large amount of meth on him "as well as a sawed-off shotgun."
During the chase, Lumpkin swerved in both lanes of travel, forcing other vehicles to stop to avoid a collision, Poston wrote, and was also driving without headlights and did so through a school zone after school hours.
The first time Hicks tried to get Lumpkin to stop with the PIT maneuver, Hicks reportedly slammed on the brakes and nearly caused a collision between the two vehicles. After that, Stanley was seen sticking his arms out of the passenger side window "in what appeared to be an attempt to communicate his desire to surrender."
Before the PIT maneuver was made, the chase was nearing a particularly busy intersection with a truck stop and was close to an on-ramp for I-75.
Poston said his review was "made significantly easier" by watching body and dash cam footage from deputies during the chase.
"It should be noted that there is no evidence whatsoever that Detective Hicks acted with malice or any ill will towards the occupants of the vehicle or had any intent to harm them," Poston wrote in his review. "It is undisputed that his intent was to safely end the pursuit before any harm could come to the public from allowing the chase to continue."
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