Few things are easier to examine with the benefit of hindsight than a police chase, where potentially dangerous decisions must be made in the blink of an eye by responding officers. Aborting the chase could save lives or put more people at risk, as could a move to stop a car right there and then. It's why law enforcement agencies of all sizes and jurisdictions maintain guidelines for pursuing suspects—and why a deadly PIT maneuver that capped off a chase in Arkansas earlier this month is now drawing attention.
KFSM News reports that the pursuit began on Friday, April 10 when a U.S. Forest Service officer saw a Ram 1500 pickup driven by a 34-year-old local man named Justin Battenfield run a red light in Fort Smith and refused to stop. Units from the Arkansas State Police took over the chase after 17 minutes, following Battenfield down a five-lane major route called Zero Street when troopers observed him weaving into oncoming traffic at high speed. That's when the order to stop the truck by any means was handed down.
"Fourteen, get up there and get him stopped, because he's driving on the wrong—on the other side of the road and we need to get him stopped," an ASP supervisor can be heard saying on dashcam video released by authorities. "I don't care if he's brake-checking you. Get this car stopped as soon as there's an opening on the highway."
The supervisor doesn't even finish speaking before Trooper Michael Shawn Ellis in a Dodge Charger Pursuit runs up along the right side of the Ram and PITs him at a GPS-recorded 109 mph. Warning: The following video shows a fatal crash. Viewer discretion is advised.
The impact, captured on Ellis' dashcam as well as that of another trooper following close behind, is devastating. The Ram flips on its side almost immediately and gets stuck perpendicular in front of the Charger, its undercarriage now being pushed by the cruiser as the two veer off the road. It starts to roll violently as it digs into the soft dirt of a roadside ditch—then the mechanical maelstrom hits a culvert while still traveling above 60 mph, crushing the truck's cabin and launching the Charger a good 20 feet into the air.
"Ok he's got him stopped and... go ahead and start EMS," the follow-up trooper radios in at the end. Battenfield died in the crash. Trooper Ellis was hospitalized with "non-life-threatening" injuries.
The deadly end to this chase—the trooper could have easily been killed as well had the rollover gone just a bit differently—raised questions about whether authorities acted appropriately. Back on April 10, Arkansas State Police immediately announced a joint probe into the crash by its Highway Patrol and Criminal Investigation divisions. That investigation is still ongoing; however, the department issued a statement to KFSM Newsthis week generally defending the use of the PIT (pursuit intervention technique) maneuver, where an officer purposefully spins out a fleeing suspect by ramming one of the car's rear fenders.
"PIT has been used by the Arkansas State Police for no less than the past 18-20 years and continues to be used by state troopers, particularly if innocent lives are being threatened, as was the case involving the Fort Smith incident," spokesman Bill Sadler said.
Arkansas State Police doesn't publicize its pursuit guidelines, but WVTM Newsreports that the decision to call off a chase can be made "by the primary unit or ordered by a supervisor at any time during the pursuit." Sadler's statement indicates Battenfield's dangerous driving convinced troopers that letting him go would've put more lives in jeopardy—though whether or not he would've continued to drive at 110 mph on the wrong side of the road without police chasing him is a legitimate question with no easy answer. There's been no announcement regarding the reason he fled in the first place.
There are other tools at the disposal of officers in pursuit situations, like spike strips, though history shows those don't always bring about a clean end either. Regardless, we're not here to call anyone out absent the full story—consider this a visceral example of how dangerous a police pursuit can be.
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Investigators said John Bomar, 19, was speeding at more than 100 miles an hour during the chase. The trooper used a PIT maneuver and Bomar crashed into a field.What is a PIT maneuver Arkansas? ›
A PIT maneuver is when an officer collides with the back of a vehicle, causing it to spin out and crash. The move is legal but considered highly dangerous when performed at high speeds. State troopers identified the driver as 19-year-old John Bomar from Kentucky. Bomar was the only one in the vehicle.What did Justin Battenfield do? ›
One of the nine drivers killed this year was 34-year-old Justin Battenfield, a man whose family said he was mentally disabled and loved to drive the roads around his home in Van Buren, Ark.Does Arkansas have a no chase law for motorcycles? ›
Pursuits shall not be undertaken where the officer is operating a two-or three- wheeled police motorcycle unless the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the suspect has been or is involved in a violent felony.What happened to Lakita Davis? ›
The Jonesboro Police Department concluded that Lakita Davis, 35, and Tacorrion Golden, 20, both of Memphis, were involved in the Oct. 3 robbery of Dollar General, 5431 Southwest Drive. Davis died during a police pursuit that followed.What is a police PIT maneuver? ›
The PIT maneuver (precision immobilization technique) or TVI (tactical vehicle intervention) is a pursuit tactic by which a pursuing car can force a fleeing car to turn sideways abruptly, causing the driver to lose control and stop. It was developed by BSR Inc.Can you counter a PIT maneuver? ›
How To Counter A Pit Maneuver - YouTubeWhat does PIT stand for in PIT maneuver? ›
The PIT (Precision Immobilization Technique) Maneuver is a technique used by law enforcement personnel to force a fleeing vehicle to abruptly turn 180 degrees, causing the vehicle to stall and stop.IS PIT maneuver legal in Nascar? ›
The maneuver involves one driver drafting another, where the driver behind bumps into the driver in front to push them forward and continue the draft. While this maneuver is considered fair by many, others take a strong stance of objection, citing how the move is extremely dangerous and could cause a fatal crash.Is it legal to lane split in Arkansas? ›
Is lane splitting legal in Arkansas? Because there is no mention of lane splitting and this vague vehicle code technically means vehicles can drive outside the lane when safe, lane splitting is de facto legal. Arkansas also allows lane sharing with two motorcycles side by side in the same lane.
(d) (1) (A) Fleeing by means of any vehicle or conveyance is considered a Class A misdemeanor. (B) A person convicted under subdivision (d)(1)(A) of this section shall serve a minimum of two (2) days in jail.Is there a helmet law in Arkansas? ›
Motorcycle Helmet Law in Arkansas
However, not all states have universal helmet laws. Arkansas is one of them. In 1997, the state's mandatory motorcycle helmet law was repealed . Instead, legislators enacted a law that only required motorcyclists and passengers under the age of 21 to wear a helmet.
The Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) maneuver has been used by law enforcement since the 1980s to disable a fleeing vehicle. PIT is also used in protective operations as a means to remove an aggressor vehicle from a motorcade or convoy. The PIT was developed by Bill Scott Raceway (BSR), Inc.How to PIT a vehicle? ›
How to Pit a Car | Offensive Driving Techniques | Tactical RiflemanHow do you do the PIT maneuver in GTA San Andreas? ›
Maneuver. In this challenge you have to drive in a police car. You will have to drive behind another police car and you have to push your front against the back of the other car, so the other car will make a turn.What is the maximum speed for a pit maneuver? ›
The PIT shall not be used when the speed of either vehicle is in excess of 35 mph. Higher speeds can result in over rotation of the suspect vehicle.What does TVI stand for police? ›
Ever wonder what it's like to TVI (Tactical Vehicle Intervention) another vehicle to end a pursuit? The students of the Citizens' Police Academy found...Why does the pit maneuver work? ›
When police PIT a target car, its tires momentarily lose traction with the road, and the rear end is forced to the side in the direction it was bumped, causing the vehicle to yaw left or right.What is a grappler police bumper? ›
Known as the “Grappler Police Bumper”, this device is mounted to the front bumper of a police cruiser that can tether a suspect's rear axle, thereby preventing them from fleeing the authorities.What is a pit vehicle? ›
Pit vehicle means an unregistered vehicle of scooter, golf cart or utility task vehicle design with an engine not exceeding 15 horsepower in output, and which is used as transportation during your attendance at a motorsports related event.
The Science Behind Draft and Drag - YouTubeWhy do race cars push each other? ›
The aerodynamics package NASCAR uses at Daytona and Talladega, the two fastest and biggest tracks in the series, creates tight packs of cars running close to 200 mph. Drivers work together and draft off each other, essentially pushing the car in front of them, to maintain momentum and avoid losing positions.Why do racecars draft? ›
During a race, drivers can get a speed boost by lining up their racecars. This is a formation called drafting. When cars draft, the leading car blocks the movement of air, creating low pressure behind it. The low-pressure air creates a vacuum, tugging the trailing car forward while reducing the leading car's drag.What age can a child ride on a motorcycle Arkansas? ›
Arkansas requires motorcycle passengers to be at least eight years old. The minimum age is seven in Hawaii, and in Louisiana, Texas and Washington, the set age is five years old.Is filtering on a motorcycle legal in Arkansas? ›
In Arkansas, lane splitting is not mentioned in the statutes. Therefore, it is not technically considered illegal. This simply means that Arkansas motor vehicle code does not reference lane splitting at all. Therefore, it is up to motorcyclists to remain safe and vigilant on Arkansas's roadways.Can kids ride on motorcycles in Arkansas? ›
(a) Except as provided under subsection (b) of this section, it is unlawful for the driver of a motorcycle to allow a child to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle on a street or highway unless the child is at least eight (8) years of age.What percentage of a sentence must be served in Arkansas? ›
Arkansas requires certain offenders to serve 70%. Colorado requires violent offend- ers with 2 prior violent convictions to serve 75% and with 1 prior violent conviction, 56%. Massachusetts requires 75% of a minimum prison sentence. date of the law.What's the highest class felony? ›
Felonies classified as “Class A” or “Level One” are the most serious crimes, short of death penalty crimes. They incur long prison sentences and hefty fines.How much is a leaving the scene of an accident ticket in Arkansas? ›
A hit-and-run is a crime with serious penalties in Arkansas. You could face fines of up to $10,000 or even serve jail time if you leave the scene of an accident. If you were involved in an accident and the other vehicle evades the scene, you should attempt to identify the car and report the crime to the police.Does Arkansas require a motorcycle license? ›
According to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, in addition to meeting the requirements necessary to obtain a regular driver's license, individuals must apply for a motorcycle license to operate a motorcycle.
Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire are the only states that do not have motorcycle helmet laws.What size motorcycle requires a license in Arkansas? ›
Ages 16+. The licensee is authorized to operate motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, or similarly classified vehicles. Ages 14-15. The licensee is authorized to operate a motor-driven cycle which displaces two-hundred fifty cubic centimeters (250 CC) or less.Why does the pit maneuver work? ›
When police PIT a target car, its tires momentarily lose traction with the road, and the rear end is forced to the side in the direction it was bumped, causing the vehicle to yaw left or right.What is TVI in police? ›
A Tactical Vehicle Intervention (TVI) is a controlled maneuver where the front of a police vehicle is used to contact the rear quarter panel of the suspect vehicle with the intention to cause the suspect vehicle to spin 180 degrees and impede the suspect vehicle's ability to continue down the roadway.What is a grappler police bumper? ›
Known as the “Grappler Police Bumper”, this device is mounted to the front bumper of a police cruiser that can tether a suspect's rear axle, thereby preventing them from fleeing the authorities.Who invented the pit maneuver? ›
The Precision Immobilization Technique (PIT) maneuver has been used by law enforcement since the 1980s to disable a fleeing vehicle. PIT is also used in protective operations as a means to remove an aggressor vehicle from a motorcade or convoy. The PIT was developed by Bill Scott Raceway (BSR), Inc.How police stop a moving car? ›
Between the arms of the “Y” is a fabric netting material. The officer maneuvers the bracket onto the rear wheel of the evading vehicle, snagging the fabric on the wheel. The fabric wraps around the evader's wheel, immobilizing it and bringing the car to a stop.Are police cars bulletproof? ›
Some patrol car windows are bulletproof to ensure that the safety of police officers is not at risk while in the car.