A motorcyclist was critically injured when he crashed into the back of an SUV while fleeing from Habersham County deputies. 45-year-old Robert Brown of Madison County was driving around 100 mph at the time of impact, officials say.
The crash occurred around 1:35 Wednesday afternoon, June 22. It ended a nearly 20 mile-long chase from Cornelia to Commerce, topping speeds of 140 mph.
Sergeant Kris Hall of Habersham’s HEAT traffic unit saw the Kawasaki ZX636 traveling southbound on GA 365 near Iron Ore Road in Demorest. Hall reported the biker made “several look backs at him.” At that point, Sgt. Hall began following the motorcycle. He caught up with it after exiting GA 365 South onto US 441 at Level Grove Road.
“Hall noted the left turn signal remained on and the rider seemed to be having difficulty riding the bike,” the incident report states. While running the bike’s tag number, Hall says the motorcycle pulled away at speeds “in excess of 100 mph in a 45 mph zone.” It was at that point that Hall says he activated his emergency lights and siren and began a pursuit.
Chase ends mere miles from I-85
With Deputy Hall chasing him, Brown reportedly sped through the red light at US 441 and Willingham Avenue in Baldwin at over 80 mph.
“The rider continued his erratic behavior, raising his arms, constantly adjusting his helmet, and driving all over the roadway,” the report states.
The chase continued into Banks County on US 441. As it neared Banks Road, Brown changed lanes and ran into the back of a 2011 Toyota 4Runner. “The rider was ejected into the back of the SUV and then struck the pavement where he slid down the roadway, face down, for a significant distance,” the sheriff’s office report says.
The crashed happened less than two miles from I-85 in Commerce.
Banks County EMS transported Brown to Piedmont Athens Regional Hospital in critical condition. As of late Thursday evening, he was still in intensive care.
According to Habersham County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Kevin Angell, the sheriff’s office learned Thursday that the motorcycle Brown was riding was stolen. Deputies charged him with fleeing and eluding, speeding, DUI, failure to maintain lane, no license, running a red light, reckless driving, obstruction, theft by taking a motor vehicle, and burglary.
The Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team is assisting in the wreck investigation.
Third in 3 months
This is at least the third chase-related wreck involving Habersham County deputies since March.
On March 28 a Gainesville man was injured when his motorcycle broke in two and caught fire after striking a patrol vehicle that was trying to stop him. Four days later, HEAT and STEP units from Habersham County took over a State Patrol chase that ended in a wreck on GA 365 in Demorest.
Now Habersham filed open records requests for dashcam footage of the June 22 and March 28 pursuits. The sheriff’s office denied both requests citing state law which does not require them to release video in active cases. However, O.C.G.A. 50-18-72 does not prevent them from releasing it, either.
In an act of transparency, the Cornelia Police Department released its dashcam footage following a recent incident involving one of its officers. While that incident did not involve a pursuit, the dashcam footage was part of an internal investigation that led to the officer being disciplined.
Now Habersham reached out to Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell and his second in command, Col. Murray Kogod, for comment regarding the June 22 chase and their decision not to release the videos. As of publication time, neither had responded.