A Columbus County K-9 officer rescued a toddler Tuesday after the child’s father led the deputy on a high speed chase. Multiple charges are pending against Austin Church, 39, who was arrested after wrecking his sport utility on N.C. 904.
The three-year-old child in the back seat was injured and transported to Columbus Regional.
Chief Deputy Aaron Herring said Dep. B. Soles was on routine patrol when Church passed the patrol vehicle in excess of 80 miles per hour. Soles activated his blue lights to initiate a traffic stop, Herring said, but Church refused to stop. Witnesses said Church endangered other drivers along the busy highway even before allegedly fleeing the deputy.
Church lost control of the vehicle and went off the right shoulder, striking a ditch and crashing.
“The deputy immediately went to the vehicle and extracted the suspect,” Herring said, “and that’s when he noticed the child in the back seat. When he saw he could safely do so, he removed the child from the vehicle.”
A passerby said she saw the blue lights “slow down and stop”.
“That’s when I realized it was a chase,” she said.
“The SUV ran off the road and wrecked, and the deputy jumped out and pulled his weapon. At that time I was like, oh no. It’s time for me to turn around.”
The woman had her own child in the car, she said, and “I didn’t want her seeing anything.”
After going back down the road for a short period of time, she returned.
“When I came around the officer had the guy on the ground and was holding the baby in his arms,” she said. “I was so heartbroken for that sweet baby.”
Church was held under $7,000 secured bond, charged with driving while impaired, driving while license revoked, fleeing to elude arrest, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting a public office, speeding, and misdemeanor child abuse. His address was listed as 396 Seven Creeks Highway.
Soles called for rescue and the Highway Patrol. Herring said Church will face multiple charges. Investigators contacted the Department of Social Services to assist the child, Herring said.