Scott County deputy drives over 120 mph, wrong way on interstate before crashing patrol car
BENTON, Mo. — A Scott County Sheriff’s deputy exceeded 120 mph and drove the wrong way on Interstate 55 to join a pursuit in progress before totaling his patrol vehicle at the Benton, Missouri, exit earlier this month, according to records provided by authorities Tuesday.
The incident occurred shortly before 3 a.m. Aug. 19. Public-information officer Rick Schmidt of the Cape Girardeau Police Department said Cape Girardeau officers were responding to reports of a suspicious vehicle near William Street when the subject fled to the interstate and headed south.
Scott County sheriff’s deputy James Britton, who was on patrol in Sikeston, Missouri, heard the radio traffic about the approaching chase and sought to assist, Chief Deputy Ryan Dennis of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office said in a phone interview Tuesday.
“[Britton] was not immediately involved in the pursuit,” Dennis said. “They were still a good ways ahead of them, but he was trying to catch up.”
Dennis said Britton used an emergency vehicle U-turn about two-tenths of a mile south of the intersection of I-55 and Highway 77 to go from the interstate’s northbound lane to the southbound lane, where Britton continued heading north. At that time, Dennis said, the suspect saw Britton approaching and turned around, heading up the south-facing on-ramp toward Highway 77. Dennis said Cape Girardeau police followed the suspect up the on-ramp before Britton, still trying to catch up, followed suit. At the top of the overpass, Britton lost control of the cruiser, running off the right-hand side of the road and striking a metal guardrail, according to reports filed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
It is unclear how fast Britton was driving at the time of the crash, but in his report after investigating the incident, highway patrol trooper B.A. Pratt cited excessive speed, an improper turn and the fact Britton was going the wrong way as contributing factors.
Dennis said the Scott County Sheriff’s Office has not determined Britton’s speed at the time of the crash, but added, “two minutes prior [to the accident,] he was going about 118 miles per hour. That was showing him on the interstate. ... Everything else, we are still doing an investigation.”
GPS data from Britton’s cruiser the morning of the crash, provided by the sheriff’s office, shows Britton reached 124 miles per hour on the northbound lane of I-55 before crossing over to the southbound lane. The same data show Britton reached at least 114 miles per hour while traveling the wrong way in the southbound lane.
It is unclear whether the incident was captured by the dashcam in Britton’s car, Dennis said, since the sheriff’s office had only acquired the 2018 Dodge Charger the Thursday before the crash.
“We had just got it equipped with emergency equipment and it wasn’t even in the fleet yet. [Britton] had a vehicle problem with his assigned vehicle so he drove that one for the evening. ... We’re still trying to download the [video,]” he said. “We’re not sure if the people who put it in had even put a DVD in the recorder yet.”
Dennis said the vehicle cost the sheriff’s office about $22,000.
Britton, who sustained minor injuries and was transported to Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau following the crash, has since resigned from the sheriff’s office, Dennis said.
Deputies found to exhibit “willful or reckless disregard for the safety of others” are subject to a 30-day suspension for a first offense, according to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office disciplinary guidelines, however Dennis said Britton’s actions the night of the crash did not constitute any policy violations.
“As far as our department policy, he did not break the policy as far as his speed,” Dennis said. “I mean, obviously we don’t like that (Britton driving the wrong way on the interstate). I mean common sense, you know what I mean there? But as far as the policy we have that says he drove up the wrong side of the interstate was wrong, we don’t have that policy.”
Dennis said the Scott County Sheriff’s Office conducts vehicular-pursuit training on an as-needed basis and the last such training Britton received was during his time at the law enforcement academy. Britton had been a Scott County sheriff’s deputy since 2016.