Randi Stanley-Gibson was driving through Henrico County, Virginia, with her husband Friday afternoon when they saw a state police vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 295 with no one inside it, WRIC-TV reported.
Soon they saw something else unusual — and quite a bit more unsettling.
“The traffic just started slowing down. People were switching lanes,” Stanley-Gibson recounted to the station. “I told [my husband] ... ‘I believe someone’s trying to jump out of the vehicle,’ because I could see legs hanging out of the door that was open.”
Turns out a state trooper was partially inside the vehicle and being dragged at speeds reaching 115 mph after the driver sped away from a traffic stop just after 4 p.m., police told WRIC.
What are the details?
The trooper noticed a 2021 Mazda CX-30 SUV traveling south at nearly 100 mph in a 70 mph zone, after which the trooper made a traffic stop, with the driver pulling onto the shoulder, the station said, citing a police news release.
The trooper approached the Mazda on the passenger side, and the driver agreed to let the trooper search the vehicle, police told WRIC.
Amid the trooper's search, the driver sped away, and the passenger door closed on the trooper, the station said, adding that at first the trooper was partially inside the vehicle, then soon managed to pull himself inside.
Stanley-Gibson told WRIC she called 911 and told the dispatcher what she was seeing.
“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 recounted to the station. “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.”
The trooper and driver struggled for about three miles, police told WRIC, and then the driver hit two southbound tractor trailers near the Creighton Road exit and reportedly ran from the scene.
"At that point we had pulled over, and a couple other people had as well," Stanley-Gibson told the station, noting they wanted to check on the trooper's condition.
He was going to be OK.
The trooper was treated for minor, non-life-threatening injuries, police noted to WRIC, adding that he suffered rib bruises and airbag burns — but his young age and good physical condition, as well as his ballistic vest, helped him survive.
Stanley-Gibson told the station the trooper was shaken up but that "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.”
“I’m so grateful that he was okay,” she added to WRIC. “We have family in law enforcement. Like, that could have been my father. Like, what if he had kids at home?”
What about the driver?
First responders' scanner audio 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, the station said.
A search perimeter was set up, WRIC said, and the Mazda driver was found near Cold Harbor Road in Hanover. What's more, authorities said a handgun was found in the Mazda, the station added.
Milton Jermaine Lewis, 38, of Delaware 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, WRIC noted.
Lewis also suffered minor, non-life-threatening injuries, authorities told the station, and was behind bars at Pamunkey Regional Jail.