April 9, 2014

Video gives play-by-play of SC trooper crash in Rock Hill

Highway Patrol dashboard camera video gives a play-by-play of the events leading up to a trooper crashing his patrol car into a pickup truck in an effort to stop an intoxicated man who was allegedly driving recklessly in a Rock Hill neighborhood last month.

“Tase him ... tase him ... tase him ... tase him.”

Lance Cpl. Brian Benfield shouted those words moments after he rammed his S.C. Highway Patrol car into the side of a pickup truck, driven by a man police say was drunk and recklessly navigated through Rock Hill streets and yards last month. Troopers then chased Travis Gary Knight, 44, of Jacksonville, Fla., on foot before he tripped, and an officer “fell on top of him.”

The Herald this week obtained a copy of the dashboard video from Benfield’s patrol car after filing a state Freedom of Information Act request. The video shows Benfield, 40, driving his patrol car into the side of a gray pickup truck on Mount Gallant Road.

“He could have easily went left of center and hit somebody and killed them,” Benfield told a trooper on scene. “The way he was driving, we had no choice but to do what we had to do.”

At about 2 a.m. March 23, troopers tried pulling over a 2003 Dodge pickup because the driver was “possibly intoxicated,” according to a York County Sheriff’s report. The driver didn’t stop, but sped down Twin Lakes Road, cutting across yards and through neighborhoods, before the truck turned onto India Hook Road and headed toward Celanese Road.

Cpl. Benfield pulled into the intersection at Mount Gallant and India Hook with his lights and sirens on to get between the truck and any other traffic. After troopers relayed via radio that Knight drove through a red light, he approached the intersection where Benfield waited. Benfield turned his patrol car into the side of the pickup truck, totaling both cars.

Knight jumped out of the truck and ran, officers reported. During the chase, Benfield yelled for troopers to “tase him.” Officers caught up with Knight. He was arrested and charged with failure to stop for a blue light, driving under the influence, driving without a license, failure to obey a traffic control device and open container.

Knights was being held Wednesday at the York County Detention Center on a $16,942 bond.

“I attempted to tase him, and I missed,” a trooper told Benfield. “When I went to reload, that’s when he tripped and I tripped and fell on top of him.”

After the crash, Benfield, who called his captain and repeatedly assured his colleagues he was OK, told sheriff’s deputies he was afraid someone would be hurt or killed if the chase continued, so he intentionally turned into the Dodge truck with his patrol car, the report states.

The state Department of Public Safety declined The Herald’s request to interview Benfield.

The truck took the most damage on the passenger’s side. The airbag in Benfield’s patrol car deployed, deputies reported, and he was taken to Riverview Medical Center to receive treatment for minor injuries. Knight was taken to Piedmont Medical Center, where he was treated for a broken hand.

Knight told deputies his Rock Hill girlfriend gave him permission to drive the pickup. The woman confirmed that she let Knight use the truck, but she had not seen him in more than a week, according to police documents. She later told deputies that she knew Knight as “Eugene Gary Losco.”

On Wednesday, the woman, who asked not to be identified, told The Herald she and Knight met online and had been in a relationship for about a year. He attracted her, she said, because he seemed adventurous and claimed his relatives were in the police force – something she thought they had in common. Deputies say the woman gave Knight more than $5,000.

“There was always something to help him out with,” she said.

After the crash, deputies contacted U.S. Army officials after deputies say Knight falsified military documents, according to a sheriff’s report.

Army officials confirmed Wednesday that there is no record of “Travis Gary Knight” or “Eugene Gary Losco” having ever served in the Army in any capacity.

Troy Rolan, Army spokesman, said any type of punitive actions against Knight would be handled by federal authorities.

It was unclear Wednesday if Knight faced any federal charges.

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