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Contributed Photo by Tyler Bishop / Hubert David Smith was arrested Monday by the Georgia State Patrol after a high-speed motorcycle chase. Family friends say he is suffering from a rare form of cancer.

The arrest in Rossville this week of a speeding motorcycle rider suffering from cancer has turned into a viral moment; some people support his "bucket list" adventure, while others can't see past his endangerment of other drivers.

Hubert David Smith, a 63-year-old resident of Ringgold, faces 20 charges, including six counts of failure to obey a stop sign or yield after stopping, three counts of driving on the wrong side of the road, three counts of speeding, two counts of improper lane change/failure to maintain lane, one felony count of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer for a felony offense.

He also faces one count of wrong class of license, one count driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, one count of improper passing in a no-passing zone, one count of failure to obey a traffic control device and one count of reckless driving.

Smith posted a $9,000 property bond Wednesday afternoon.

Tyler Bishop runs the Facebook page Northwest Georgia Scanner, where he reports on local crime and police activity. He was already driving when he said he heard the call go out on the scanner about a police chase Tuesday, so he headed in that direction.

"I never could catch up to the chase itself, they were a little ways ahead of me," the resident of north Walker County said. "But he (the trooper) said they reached speeds of up to 139 (mph); that was the fastest he got him going."

A Georgia state trooper told Bishop the chase started on Highway 27 when Smith was being stopped for speeding. Smith only slowed down before deciding to flee, Bishop was told by the trooper.

The chase was almost called off, Bishop was told, until a Rossville police officer saw the wheel of the motorcycle sticking out from behind the Gospel Baptist Tabernacle at 781 Salem Road, where the officer was turning around. The troopers told Bishop that Smith was shocked with a stun gun when he "panicked" and tried to toss a loaded gun he had in his waist band.

(READ MORE: Historic Rossville, Georgia, woolen mill sells as brownfield restoration program kicks off)

 

The arrest

Bishop said he showed up right as the officers were lifting Smith off the ground in handcuffs. He heard Smith say he was coming back from a chemotherapy treatment.

"While he was talking to me as I was standing there, he said he had a rare form of cancer and the doctor didn't give him much hope," Bishop said. "Then he made the comment, 'I guess I can check this off my bucket list,'" Bishop said.

Smith was calm, laughing, "overly apologetic" and said didn't want to endanger law enforcement officers or get anyone hurt, Bishop said.

"Even the trooper told him, he was like, 'I have to be honest with you: You're the nicest and most honest person I ever dealt with following a chase,'" Bishop said.

Bishop said the officers found no problems with Smith's driver's license and found that his motorcycle and firearm were legal as well.

A representative from the Georgia State Patrol said the arrest record wasn't ready. The Chattanooga Times Free Press filed an open records request, but no response was received before deadline. A representative from the Walker County Sheriff's Office shared the booking card for the incident, which identified the rider as Smith.

In a social media message, James Brown, a friend of Smith's family, said Smith didn't want to comment for this story.

"He is a very good friend, neighbor and man that is going through a tough time with a rare cancer," Brown said.

Smith, when contacted by text message, confirmed he was the motorcycle rider in question and that he was freed from jail but offered no other comment. When asked about his treatment in jail, his wife wrote that he didn't feel like talking.

"It's been a rough couple of days," she added.

(READ MORE: Higher property assessments follow jump in Walker County, Georgia, housing sales)

Bishop said he received some hate messages from his readers because they thought Bishop was trying to play Smith up as "a hero" or a "good person" for fleeing the police. Some readers on Facebook called for Smith to be given leniency; others wanted him prosecuted for his crime. Bishop said he added the details of Smith being a legal driver and firearm holder to the story, "to let people know it was legit, he wasn't running for any other reason, apparently, other than just that was on his bucket list, I guess."

 

Other witnesses

Tammy Carroll said she got involved when a Rossville police cruiser raced past while she stopped in traffic. She was in the car with Cori Burnette, her best friend since they met when their now-18-year-old children were in pre-kindergarten. They both live in East Ridge.

"He probably was running from them in the beginning, but he was literally sitting in traffic on McFarland when Rossville city and Walker County [officers] are blaring up and down McFarland — and dude's just casually sitting in traffic," Carroll said.

Once the police passed by, Burnette said Smith turned on his blinker and sped away. That's when the women knew Smith was the person authorities were chasing.

"He straight juked them in the middle of Rossville," Carroll said.

Burnette said she is a former cancer patient and has always wanted to go on a high-speed chase before she dies.

"She's crazy," Carroll said of her friend.

Her bucket list wish is why Burnette decided to follow the motorcyclist, Burnette said.

Two police cruisers had already pulled into the parking lot of the church when Carroll and Burnette arrived. Burnette said she saw the officer give the motorcycle rider commands before shocking him.

"There's so much with law enforcement and things that happen," Carroll said.

"And we didn't even know if this man was old, young, Black, white, whatever — we just didn't want anything to happen because where he got caught was a secluded area," Burnette said.

Burnette said when they pulled into the church parking lot, the motorcycle was on the ground with Smith still on it. Several officers "piled up on him," she said, before he was shocked with the Taser.

As Smith walked to the ambulance in handcuffs, Burnette said he had a smile on his face.

"He kept looking at us and smiling, like 'They saved me.' I never took my camera off him because of stuff that goes on these days," Burnette said. "I know what he did was not OK, but as a cancer patient, I know where he was coming from, especially if you have six months to live, you're gonna do what you want to do."

Smith may have been reckless before they saw him, the women said, but they added they didn't see him do anything wrong. Carroll said the police were driving very fast, and they saw police cruisers nearly take out two or three cars.

"These cops are going around in every — looks like the Shriners brother in the parade going in every direction," Carroll said.

Burnette said the two women started calling him their papaw during the incident, and they want to bail him out of jail — and help him finish his bucket list.

Though she's been in remission for five years, Burnette said she was told by a doctor back when diagnosed she only had a 15% chance to survive. So she said she knows how Smith feels. Carroll said her grandpa who raised her died of cancer, and she said she can relate, too.

Chemotherapy clouds your thinking, Burnette said, and makes you do weird things. Besides that, she said, if she only had six months to live, she said she'd go on police chases, too, "and do everything to the fullest I can."

Contact Andrew Wilkins at awilkins@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.

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