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Chase ends with two police cruisers in the lake

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Sheriff's vehicle in Junaluska.JPG

SWAMPED — The Lake Junaluska security vehicle, seen here, was pulled out of the shallow lake first, after which the Haywood County Sheriff's deputy squad car was removed.

LAKE JUNALUSKA — A brief high-speed chase around Lake Junaluska ended with two law enforcement vehicles in the water.

The incident was set into motion at about 9:50 a.m. on Tuesday morning when Lake Junaluska Assembly’s Private Security received a complaint of a suspicious person attempting to gain entry into cars at the Lake Junaluska Welcome Center.

According to a press release sent out by the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, lake security arrived and found the suspect and another person engaged in an altercation.

“During attempts by Lake Security to control the situation, the suspect broke free, entered the security vehicle and drove away,” the release reads. “As the suspect was leaving, a responding Haywood County Sheriff’s deputy was arriving and attempted to conduct a traffic stop on the stolen security vehicle.”

A short chase ensued. While traveling at a high rate of speed, as the suspect neared a heavily traveled section of the lake’s popular walking path, the deputy made an intentional move to run the stolen vehicle off the road.

“Due to heavy pedestrian traffic on the lake grounds, the chase was terminated intentionally by the deputy,” the release reads. “Both patrol vehicles came to rest partially submerged in the lake. The suspect exited the vehicle and was apprehended in the attempt to flee on foot. The suspect was taken into custody and is currently undergoing a medical evaluation.”

Within minutes, dozens of law enforcement officers from around the county converged on the scene.

Jack Ewing, the retired chief executive officer of Lake Junaluska Assembly, saw the whole series of events play out from his front porch.

“I heard the sirens and thought, 'Wow those are getting close,'” he said.

Within seconds, the two vehicles came careening around the corner at a high rate of speed.

“The two vehicles were side-by-side, and one came up to the right side of the other and pushed it in,” Ewing said.

“Somebody made a split-second decision, and it saved lives,” he added.

Normally, around that part of South Lakeshore Drive, the biggest threat to pedestrians enjoying the walking path might be an overly-aggressive goose or dog droppings. But what happened Tuesday morning had the potential to end in pedestrian casualties or even the loss of life were it not for the quick actions of the deputies who responded.

“I am so grateful for the work that those in our local law enforcement do on a daily basis for the betterment of our security,” Ewing said.

Ken Howle, executive director of Lake Junaluska, echoed Ewing’s sentiments.

“First and foremost, we’re very thankful that no one was injured during this incident, and we greatly appreciate the immediate rapid and effective response of Haywood County Sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Howle said that aside from the vehicle that plunged into the lake, the property damage was minimal.

Details on the suspect and any charges have not yet been made available.

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TAKE NOTICE

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. in the Historic Courtroom of the Haywood County Historic Courthouse located at 215 N. Main Street, Waynesville, North Carolina 28786. The purpose of the hearing is to allow the public to discuss the sale of the Historic Haywood County Hospital located at 1230 N. Main Street, Waynesville, North Carolina to Landmark Asset Services, Inc. for $225,000.00. The County intends to sell the property for affordable housing for persons of low to moderate income per N.C.G.S. 153A-378. The sale of the Historic Haywood County Hospital is authorized and conducted pursuant to N.C.G.S. 160A-267. The County shall attach covenants or conditions to assure that the property will be put to public use for persons of low to moderate income. Persons wishing to be heard at the public hearing are asked to be present. The County Commissioners may adopt reasonable rules governing the conduct of the hearing including; (i) fixing the maximum time allotted to each speaker, (ii) providing for the designation of spokesmen for groups of persons supporting or opposing the same position, (iii) providing for the selection of delegates from groups of persons supporting or opposing the same positions when the number of persons wishing to attend the hearing exceeds the capacity of the hall, and (iv) providing for the maintenance of order and decorum in the conduct of the hearing.

This 1st day of June, 2020.

Tracy L. Wells, Clerk to the Board

Haywood County Board of Commissioners

No. 35453