High-speed chase ends in head-on collision Monday

Published 3:37 am Wednesday, June 7, 2006

By By Adam Prestridge
Atmore Police Department chief Jason Dean was sore Tuesday, but thankful no innocent bystanders were injured following a head-on collision during a high-speed chase Monday morning.
Arterio Lamar Lewis, 31, of Bay Minette has been charged with assault on a peace officer, a class two felony, after he drove his 1980 Pontiac head-on into Dean's police cruiser at the intersection of Hwy. 31 and Trammell Street during a police pursuit. Atmore officer Robby Williams, who was pursuing Lewis, smashed his cruiser into the rear end of Lewis' vehicle after it's abrupt crash.
"I'm just sore, but I'm OK," Dean said Tuesday. "The EMTs and hospital personnel told me I would be sore the day after the accident."
Dean, a 17-year veteran of the Atmore Police Department, did not receive any major injuries. He drove himself to Atmore Community Hospital after Alabama State Troopers from Evergreen arrived on the scene and made a report.
Police officers put their lives at risk each day they wake up and go to work. Dean said serving and protecting Atmore is "just part of the job."
"It's something you have to do," he said. "I hate that it happened like it did, but I'm glad no innocent people were hurt. I'm glad he didn't make it to the main light where people cross everyday. It could have been an awful situation."
At the scene of the accident, Atmore Public Safety director Glenn Carlee said the APD received a call at 8:20 a.m. complaining that Lewis was traveling at a high rate of speed, swerving and driving on the wrong side of the road putting other motorists in danger. Motorists stated that Lewis was near Dyas Creek just south of Hickey's in Baldwin County when the initial call came in.
"We had several calls about his erratic driving," Carlee said.
When APD officers attempted to pull Lewis over near the Atmore County Club, he continued driving with no regard to the officers.
"He had no intentions on stopping," Carlee said. "We could have lost an officer that quick. You never know what you're going to get into."
Atmore resident Sharon Coffman, who witnessed the collision first hand as she sat at the red light at the intersection, said Dean saved her life.
"It was like he had taken aim for that cop," she said. "After I thought about it, in hindsight, if he (Lewis) had not hit that cop, he would have hit me. In my opinion, that officer saved my life. When he took that direct hit, he saved my life. He wouldn't have got hit, I would have."
Coffman, who was on her way to Atmore City Hall to get a permit for construction of a workshop at her home, said the incident was surreal.
"It was like watching "Cops" on TV," she said. "I thought the officer was killed. I was really surprised when they pulled him from the car."
Dean said his actions Monday were all in a days work. He has always been a hands-on chief and will continue doing so.
"I came up through the department ranks," he said. "As chief, you have other duties and when it comes down to it, it's important to work with your men. I really would like to be more hands on. The office keeps me confined a lot of times, but any time I can help my men or help the community, I'm there for them."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Lewis was being held in the Escambia County Detention Center in Brewton on a $5,000 bond.

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