One of the Rock Hill Rescue Squad’s newest members was jailed last weekend after deputies say he attached emergency lights to his own car so he could deliver pizzas, and then later accused a deputy of trying to hit him with his patrol car.
At about 6:40 p.m. Sunday, a man, 18, driving on Adnah Church Road called police, claiming that he saw a green 2000 Honda Accord activate emergency yellow and red lights as it chased another car, turned into Adnah Hills Mobile Park and then turned toward S.C. 161, according to a York County Sheriff’s report. The witness was able to give authorities the car’s license plate number, which registered to an address under the name of the owner, Thomas Leon Reid III of Rock Hill.
Authorities learned Reid was working at Pizza Hut on Herlong Avenue. In the restaurant’s parking lot, deputies found the Honda with interior LED lights. Reid denied chasing another car on the road and claimed that he was a member of the Rock Hill Rescue Squad, a nonprofit volunteer organization that assists with various types of water and road collision rescue.
Reid told deputies he was not chasing another car, but delivering a pizza on Adnah Church Road. He twice denied activating the lights, saying he knows the “consequences of using the emergency lights.”
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Deputies spoke with the man who called about Reid’s speeding car, who insisted he saw Reid’s car flashing yellow and red lights, the report states. He claimed the driver of the car abruptly stopped his car, causing a car behind him to make an emergency stop, before making a U-turn and cutting off another driver who made a “hard stop” to avoid crashing into the Honda. The man reiterated that the car’s lights were flashing as it sped down the road, then stopped and then resumed on S.C. 161. The man’s physical description of the driver matched Reid, the report states.
Reid denied that he turned on his emergency lights and became “increasingly argumentative,” the report states. He told deputies the lights and the switch were both broken before refusing to give deputies the name of his rescue squad supervisor. Reid allegedly told a deputy that he was illegally taking pictures of Reid’s car. He began recording the deputy on his phone, and later claimed the deputy tried hitting him with his patrol car.
Warrants were issued for Reid, charging him with unlawful use of emergency signal and reckless driving. He was arrested while wearing a Rock Hill Rescue Squad T-shirt, the report states. Court records show he was released from jail Monday on a personal recognizance bond. Reid declined to comment when reached at his home on Thursday. A manager at Pizza Hut said she was unable to comment.
Rock Hill Rescue Squad Capt. Joe Shackelford said Reid is a probationary member on the squad, having joined about two months ago. He said he learned about the incident Wednesday and had not had a chance to speak with Reid.
Because Reid is still a “probationary member,” he should not have lights on his car, Shackelford said.
New rescue squad members undergo a six-month probationary period before they are given emergency lights and sirens to affix on their cars. They are instructed, Shackelford said, to only use them when responding to critical incidents classified as “priority 1” emergencies. Volunteers can also use the lights if they happen upon a car accident and decide to assist with managing traffic and helping victims.
Reid will have to appear before squad officers and explain what happened with the lights, Shackelford said. Squad members who commit their first infractions face a 30-day suspension from the squad. This is Reid’s first alleged offense, Shackelford said.
Misusing emergency lights violates county law and places motorists in jeopardy because when “they see those flashing lights,” their immediate reaction is “they should get out of the way,” said Cotton Howell, York County’s emergency management director.
Using the lights needlessly, Howell said, “takes away from the true meaning of what they’re used for” and might plant doubt in the minds of drivers who see them on the road.
First responders, Howell said, have an "obligation" to take seriously drivers who give emergency vehicles the right of way.
"When we ask people to move aside and do our jobs, it has to be a legitimate reason," he said. "If we violate that, we violate the trust of the community."