WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Two Triad families are turning their tears and grief into calls for change.
The family members of Jayce Haverkos and Madison Grotschel stood outside Camel City BBQ in Winston-Salem Monday night waving signs advocating for an end to high-speed police chases.
“Jayce was such a sweet, I don’t want to say kid, but kid,” said Tracy Estep, his aunt. “It’s so senseless they were so young, and Madison was such a sweet girl.”
19-year-old Jayce and 18-year-old Madison were riding in Jayce’s car on May 8 with plans to go fishing together when another car drove at them head-first as they got off of US-74.
The person who hit them head-on was trying to escape a Forsyth County deputy after investigators say he stole a car on Old School House Road. The suspect also died in the crash.
“Our hearts are shattered … We’ll never be the same,” Estep said.
She shared with FOX8 that investigators on the scene told her it looked like Jayce tried to get out of the way but couldn’t move in time.
The tragedy weighs on the family each time they get in a car.
“It’s affecting my grandkids tremendously,” Estep said. “They have this fear running through their mind that we’re going to be on the road and a high-speed chase could maybe kill one of us.”
FOX8 took the families’ concerns to Forsyth County deputies to learn more about their chase policies.
“Our policies have a lot of checks and balances in them as far as how the pursuit is going to continue: weather conditions, traffic conditions, the initial reason for the type of stop… The officer has to call in the pursuit as it’s going on,” Captain Sammy Peddycord said.
Supervisors have the ability to call a deputy off a chase in any situation. According to Peddycord, each quarter and internal review board looks over every chase deputies initiate.
“We review them to see: do we need to change policy? Do we need to modify it? Do we need to increase training? Does a specific deputy need remedial training?” Peddycord said.
According to a sheriff’s department spokesperson, a thorough and in-depth conversation took place between department leaders after the deadly crash in May.
Peddycord says they are witnessing an increase in chases, which they believe is linked to an increase in crime. While the decision to start a chase is an important and heavy one, Peddycord said that oftentimes times the chase leads to the discovery of more criminal activity like firearms, drugs and human trafficking.
“Let’s say we stopped vehicle pursuits altogether. It would be so easy for the criminal element to pick up,” Peddycord said. “They would know, and they could easily accelerate and get away.”
Peddycord says at the current moment, the department believes the checks and balances in place are working.
“Our mission is to keep the community safe. Our policies and everything we do on a daily basis keeps the community in mind first. That is top priority,” Pettycord said.
But Estep and other family members worry that if the policy stays the same, other families could be changed forever.
“They’ve got to stop because we are losing too many lives,” Estep said. “A car can be replaced. A life can definitely never be replaced.”