Sit down with law enforcement officers for a few minutes, ask the right questions, and you’ll likely hear all kinds of stories about the excuses people have given during traffic stops. After an eight-mile “slow speed chase” throughout Sumter on Wednesday, however, there’s a possibility deputies with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office heard a new one.
34-year-old Sherry Nicole Williams faces a series of charges, including child endangerment, after leading a half-dozen deputies on the chase from the Cane Savannah area of Sumter County through downtown after refusing to stop for officers. When the suspect’s 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue finally did come to rest on North Main Street about a half-mile from the sheriff’s office headquarters, however, her reason for not stopping was, to say the least, surprising.
“She finally came out of the car and said the car was driving itself,” said Ken Bell, spokesman for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. “She said she wasn’t controlling it, that it wouldn’t stop, and was giving all kinds of reasons.”
No injuries were reported in the chase, and speeds for the suspect’s vehicle – allegedly on auto pilot -never exceeded 30 miles per hour. “She was using her turn signals, stopping at intersections and everything,” Bell said.
The incident first began when deputies first responded to a call from a residence in the Cane Savannah area reporting an occupied unknown vehicle was sitting in their driveway. According to reports, when deputies arrived they found Williams sitting behind the wheel of the car, along with a small child, said to be about 7 years old, sitting in the rear seat, and an infant standing in the passenger’s seat.
Williams claimed to be waiting for someone to arrive there, and deputies told her she would have to leave, but not until someone arrived with a car seat for the infant. According to reports, Williams slowly drove away from the scene anyway, and officers followed, first into a nearby dead-end street. Williams then allegedly turned around at the end of the dead end road and attempted to hit the deputy’s car with her own before leading law enforcement throughout Sumter.
Williams faces several charges for her, or the car’s, alleged actions, including child endangerment and failure to stop for a blue light. Bond for Williams has been set at $2,000. Both children were turned over to officials with the South Carolina Department of Social Services, and the allegedly self-driving vehicle was towed from the scene.