Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie said his deputies followed the right procedures in a high-speed chase Wednesday night, a chase that ended when the suspect died following a one-vehicle accident.
Edward Lee Watson Jr., 24, led sheriff’s deputies on a brief but very high speed chase through some of the busiest roads in Effingham not long after rush hour. The chase began after Watson’s girlfriend called 911 and said he had broken into her house on Courthouse Road, threatening to kill himself with a steak knife. Watson left before deputies arrived.
Sgt. Scott Lewis, driving an unmarked white pickup, saw Watson and his Ford Explorer entering a driveway on Horsepen Road. Watson sped off, and deputies eventually approached him from the paved end of Low Ground Road.
“What got the deputy turned around was he blew through the intersection at Midland and Low Ground,” McDuffie said.
Watson also nearly plowed into the car of Deputy Jason Bragg at the crossroads of Midland and Low Ground.
“If (Bragg) had been two seconds slower, it would have impacted the door of his car,” McDuffie said. “That’s what really got the deputies after him.”
Watson nearly hit another deputy who was at the intersection of Midland and Blue Jay roads as he blocked traffic.
As he sped on Blue Jay Road, Watson hit 100 mph, McDuffie said. Deputies closed in on Watson, and he nearly hit two more deputies.
Watson also was passing cars on the wrong side of the road, and he took the curve of Blue Jay Road at its intersection with Ottis Seckinger too fast around 7:30 p.m.
“That’s what led to his demise,” McDuffie said. “He lost control at the curve, and he over-corrected.”
Watson’s vehicle flipped over several times. He was not wearing a seat belt and was partially ejected from his vehicle. He was taken to Memorial Health University Medical Center, where he died.
Deputies had put out stop sticks, strips designed to puncture tires and bring cars to a stop, but Watson ran off the road and wrecked before reaching that point. They also were close to calling off the chase, since Watson was close to approaching McCall Road and more heavily populated areas.
The chase did not last long, McDuffie said.
“It was but not just a few minutes, maybe only two minutes from the time they got turned around and got behind him,” he said.
Deputies had been called out earlier in the week to Watson’s girlfriend’s house. Her name is not being released by authorities.
“He and his girlfriend had had problems before,” McDuffie said.
McDuffie said his deputies followed the department’s pursuit policy to the letter.
“I think they did everything they could possibly do,” he said.
The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the crash portion of the chase. McDuffie said his department has closed its investigation into the incident.
“We’ve done all we can do,” he said.