With three bags of marijuana and four kids ages 3 to 9 in his 1993 Honda Civic, Christopher Bernard Mitchell led a Georgia highway patrolman through Columbus on a chase so reckless that at one point the Civic became airborne and sparks shot from its undercarriage when it landed.
For this the 27-year-old wound up facing 20 separate charges to which he pleaded guilty Tuesday in Muscogee Superior Court, where Judge William Rumer sentenced him to 20 years in prison, with two years to serve and the rest on probation, and fines topping $4,175.
The chase started about 6 p.m. Dec. 1, 2012 in Columbus’ Rose Hill area, where Officer J.D. Perry III of the state patrol saw Mitchell’s Civic had a headlight out as it headed west on 29th Street. Perry turned on his blue lights to stop the car, which then turned onto 10th Avenue, whipped into a private driveway and turned around.
There Perry was unable to block the Civic, which sped south on 10th Avenue, turned east on 29th Street and then headed south on Beacon Avenue, where Mitchell swerved to the roadside and tried to conceal the Civic among other cars parked there. But Perry saw Mitchell’s brake lights, and Mitchell then sped off again.
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Still speeding south on Beacon Avenue, Mitchell ran stop signs at 27th Street, Ashley Station Boulevard and 25th Street, where he turned west toward Hamilton Road. There Mitchell ran another stop sign as he turned onto Hamilton Road, and then ran a red light speeding north.
When Mitchell slowed after running the traffic light, Perry used the front end of his cruiser to bump a rear side of the Civic to make it slide sideways, a maneuver called P.I.T. for “Precision Immobilization Technique.” It’s supposed to end police chases by making the fleeing driver lose control.
Mitchell lost control, striking an oncoming automobile and crashing into a utility pole. But then he turned around to head south on Hamilton road before finally pulling over and getting out.
Perry drew his sidearm and ordered Mitchell to get on the ground, but the suspect hesitated, so Perry holstered the handgun andforced Mitchell down to handcuff him. Perry injured his own knee and shoulder during the arrest.
Searching Mitchell, Perry found three bags of marijuana and multiple plastic sandwich bags in the suspect’s right rear pants pocket, and $479.22 in his left front pocket. A digital scale was under the car seat.
Bystanders helped mind the four children until Columbus police came to take them to their mother, Perry reported.
Checking Mitchell’s license showed it had been suspended for an insurance violation.
So in the end, the total of Mitchell’s charges came out to this: four counts of endangering a child younger than 14, three stop sign violations, three counts of failing to use child-restraint seats, two seat-belt violations, and one count each of fleeing police, reckless driving, improper headlights, running a red light, having no driver’s license, driving under the influence of drugs, possessing a drug-related object and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute.
According to Perry’s report, Mitchell’s passengers were two boys ages 9 and 4, and two girls ages 6 and 3.