Police pursuit in front of middle school in Walton County

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Investigators say it was a split-second decision to use a PIT maneuver to keep the children safe.

It happened on the grounds of Youth Middle School in Walton County Monday night where numerous boys football teams were practicing when the fleeing truck burst onto the scene. The driver of the Toyota Tacoma was ejected and injured his ankle, followed by the passenger ordered out of the Tacoma truck at gunpoint by a deputy.

About a hundred yards away were the Dolphins Boys Football team practicing with other teams from the West Walton Athletic Association.

“We were just out here having football practice and we heard a Big Bang and didn’t really know what was going on and then, of course, everybody’s attention got drawn to the police officer, apparently they did a pit maneuver,” said Darrell Prince, the coach of the Dolphins team.

The incident began when a deputy tried to pull over the truck because neither the driver nor the passenger were wearing seatbelts. But after an illegal left turn, they noticed lights behind them and the pursuit was on. The speeds topped nearly 100 mph as the driver of the Tacoma dangerously weaved around traffic. When the spontaneous route ended up at the school the deputy, noticing the boy’s playing football, took quick action with the PIT maneuver.

“He knows because of the danger to those people he needs to end the pursuit quickly so than he performs the pit maneuver,” said Major Scott Whisnant of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

He said the driver, 34-year-old Philemon Gray, who was treated at the hospital for his injured ankle, was armed with a handgun. His passenger, 37-year-old Terrill Banks, who had a knife, had warrants for shoplifting, theft by receiving and robbery out of DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.

“We believe they are probably involved with some type of gang,” said Major Whisnant.

Banks and Gray were booked into the Walton County Jail on numerous charges.

“They handled it professionally in exactly the way they should have done it,” said Prince.