Chief: Shoplifter tried to run over cop before fatally crashing into tree

BERKELEY COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - St. Stephen police have released more details from the pursuit which ended with a man's death in Berkeley County Tuesday.

Chief John Waters said officers responded to the Dollar General on Byrnes Drive around 5 p.m. in reference to a shoplifter. When officers arrived, the person who reported the shoplifting told them the suspect just came out and went around the store.

Waters said dispatchers told officers the suspect had just climbed into a small, older-model green truck and left the scene. Waters said officers then located the truck, a 1995 GMC pickup, at the intersection of highways 52 and 45. Water said officers activated their blue lights and got out of the cruiser to approach the suspect, 53-year-old Ronald Smith.

Waters said as officers approached and told Smith to turn his vehicle off, the suspect took off toward an officer "in an aggressive manner." The officer was able to move out of the pickup's way before he was hit, Waters said, and officers began their pursuit due to the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Waters also said another officer who was waiting to assist in the pursuit observed Smith swerve toward his vehicle as he passed, but the officer was able to move his vehicle and avoid a collision.

As the pursuit continued, Smith attempted to run officers off the road several times, according to the chief, who said one lieutenant then ordered all officers to back off and give Smith the opportunity to stop. However, police say Smith did not stop, but continued onto Bull Head Road, a gravel road.

Due to the heavy amounts of dust from the gravel road, police were ordered to stop as their vision was impaired, said Waters. After the dust settled, police said officers saw Smith had crashed into a tree.

Smith was pronounced dead a little before 6 p.m.

South Carolina Highway Patrol is still investigating the incident.

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