There's a scene in an otherwise forgettable movie - which is to say, I can remember the scene but not the movie - where a cop is chasing a bad guy on foot.
The bad guy asks, "Why are you chasing me?" The cop yells, "Why are you running?" The bad guy answers, "Because you're chasing me!"
It's all fun on the big screen. Not so much when the person being chased is in a car, and someone who has nothing to do with the chase gets caught up in it and killed.
Augusta has been abuzz lately over the death of Laura Felder, passenger in a car that was broadsided by a punk fleeing a Richmond County deputy. Some blame Felder's death on Deputy Anthony Gregory for chasing Jamie Ray Clark; others blame Clark for speeding away from a simple traffic stop.
We know that eventually the lawyers will sort it all out, with help from the insurance companies.
Meanwhile, even as this tragedy produces one of the area's hottest debates, Atlanta attorney Richard W. Hendrix swooped to file a lawsuit against the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. Hendrix blames them for the deaths of three people in a June 4, 2006 crash in Martinez.
The suit claims a pair of shoplifters, whose Ford Explorer shot through a red light on Washington Road and slammed into a Chrysler sedan, wouldn't have killed the two adults and an unborn child riding in that vehicle if the thieves hadn't been speeding away from the cops.
Naturally, we know the cops wouldn't have been chasing them if they hadn't been running.
Notwithstanding the fact that most people would probably blame Tiara Maria Smith for driving the vehicle that caused the crash, there just might be a major hole in this lawsuit.
See, the cops aren't talking to us about the case now; their lips are sealed by the lawyers. But at the time of the wreck, in June 2006, the sheriff's office made it clear that while Smith might have thought she was running from the cops, they weren't actually chasing her.
Here's what happened. Employees at Marshall's in Mullins Crossing had called 911 to report Smith and Nebula McNeely (a veteran criminal) had tried to shoplift from them, and had fled the store to their vehicle with store staffers in pursuit on foot.
Let me pause the story here: For crying out loud - if you're going to try to steal stuff, why the heck would you steal from a discount clothing store? Is it really worth going to prison for an arm-load of out-of-season merchandise? Then again, if they weren't so stupid, I suppose they wouldn't be criminals.
In any event, Smith and McNeely knew the cops had been called. Smith was a newbie to the criminal world, but McNeely was a frequent flyer; she knew what would happen next when the cops showed up.
Would we expect them to just mosey off the parking lot and quietly drive home, perhaps stopping for a Big Mac? Or were they going to floor it, trying to get far away before the deputies showed up?
We know the answer. Even if every cop in the county had chosen that exact moment to stop at the "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign, Smith still would have beaten a hasty retreat back toward her Augusta home.
She wasn't running from the cops. Smith was running from her conscience. Not only did she fail to outrun it, but she cost the lives of three people while doing so.
Tiara Smith drove that car. Tiara Smith ran the red light. Tiara Smith killed those three people. That's why she's in prison.
And because she is in prison, she isn't the one being sued.
Makes as much sense as shoplifting from Marshall's.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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