HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — An investigation is underway by Virginia State Police (VSP) after authorities said a driver sped off, reaching speeds up to 115 mph through Henrico County, dragging a trooper with him.
A VSP spokesperson said the incident happened on Interstate 295 near the Creighton Road exit, just after 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2.
According to a release, the trooper observed a 2021 Mazda CX-30 SUV that was headed south at 97 mph in a 70-mph-posted zone. Authorities said that the trooper initiated a traffic stop, and the driver of the vehicle pulled off onto the shoulder.
A VSP spokesperson said that the trooper approached the Mazda on the passenger side, and that the driver was “non-compliant to the trooper’s request.” On Monday, Public Information Officer Sergeant Jessica Shehan noted that the trooper who initiated the stop was given voluntary consent by the driver to search the vehicle, but it was unclear why a search would have been requested.
During the course of the traffic stop, authorities said that the driver of the Mazda sped off, causing the passenger side door to close on the trooper, who was in the process of searching the vehicle. Sgt. Shehan told 8News that, as the driver reached speeds up to 115 mph, with the trooper partially in the passenger seat, the trooper managed to pull himself into the Mazda.
Randi Stanley-Gibson said she was driving through the area with her husband when they spotted a State Police vehicle on the side of the road and noticed it was vacant.
“We kept driving. It was all about 30 seconds later. The traffic just started slowing down. People were switching lanes,” she said. “I told [my husband], I was like, ‘I believe someone’s trying to jump out of the vehicle,’ because I could see legs hanging out of the door that was open.”
Stanley-Gibson said she called 9-1-1 and described to the dispatcher what she was witnessing.
“His hat had flown out, and we were just like, ‘Oh my gosh, the police officer’s in the vehicle. He’s being dragged,’ because he was hanging out of it,” she said. “As we were on the phone with [the dispatcher], we kind of lost them. We could still see them swerving in and out of cars periodically. Then, all of a sudden, there’s just a cloud of smoke.”
According to VSP, the trooper and driver of the Mazda struggled back and forth for approximately three miles. The driver later hit two southbound tractor-trailers and crashed near the Creighton Road exit, and reportedly ran from the scene.
Scanner audio from first responders described the suspect as a Black man with a goatee, weighing approximately 200 pounds, and wearing a white t-shirt and either blue or black pants.
“We’re attempting to set up this perimeter, and I’d like to utilize the daylight while we have it ’cause it’s wooded through here,” authorities said in scanner calls to one another. “I think we’ve got some Henrico and some Hanover en route helping with that, as well.”
According to a release, a search perimeter was established with assistance from Henrico Police and the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. At approximately 6:18 p.m., the driver of the Mazda was found near Cold Harbor Road in Hanover.
Authorities also said that a handgun was found in the Mazda.
“At that point, we had pulled over, and a couple other people had, as well. We had just gotten out to make sure that [the trooper] was fine, and he was obviously shaken up,” Stanley-Gibson said. “It’s obviously a miracle that the officer wasn’t more seriously injured. But it sounds like it’s a miracle, too, that no other cars, like, nobody else on the road was hurt.”
According to a release, the trooper was treated for minor, non-life-threatening injuries. Sgt. Shehan added that the trooper had bruising on his ribs and burns from the airbags. She also noted that he was young and in good shape, and was wearing his ballistic vest, all of which contributed to his survival.
“I’m so grateful that he was okay,” Stanley-Gibson said. “We have family in law enforcement. Like, that could have been my father. Like, what if he had kids at home?”
The driver of the Mazda was identified by VSP as 38-year-old Milton Jermaine Lewis of Delaware. He was charged with reckless driving by speeding, felony eluding of a police officer, having a concealed weapon, altering a serial number on a firearm, felony assault of a law enforcement officer, abduction, attempted capital murder, failure to maintain control of a vehicle, driving with no seatbelt and felony hit and run. Authorities said that Lewis also suffered minor, non-life-threatening injuries.
He is currently behind bars at Pamunkey Regional Jail.