A 20-year-old man is in custody after a high-speed chase that began in Haywood County and ended in Jackson resulted in a traffic crash and one fatality.
According a press release sent out by the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, on Wednesday night, a Haywood County Sheriff’s deputy observed Dalton Suttles driving on N.C. 209. The deputy confirmed that Suttles — who lives in Sylva and previously resided in Haywood County — had several existing felony warrants and attempted to initiate a traffic stop.
“Suttles refused to stop and continued driving westbound on Highway 23/74 toward the Haywood/Jackson line,” the press release reads.
The Waynesville Police Department immediately assisted, and additional aid was requested from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Samantha Hyatt, who is investigating the collision, said that at some point Suttles crossed over and traveled westbound in the eastbound lanes of the highway.
“Suttles intentionally turned into the eastbound lane,” Hyatt said.
“Law enforcement did not pursue into oncoming traffic,” she added.
At 9:04 p.m., after traveling in the opposite lane for about a half-mile, near mile marker 92, the vehicle driven by Suttles collided with a car carrying three men — Rafael Mandez, the driver; Ricardo Mandez, who was in the front passenger seat; and Zenen Lopez-Guzman, who was in the back seat. Guzman, a 46-year-old Asheville resident, passed away as a result of his injuries.
Ricardo Mandez was airlifted to Mission Hospital in Asheville with serious injuries. Suttles was taken by ambulance to Mission, where he was treated and released. Hyatt said Suttles was charged with a DWI.
“Suttles was charged by myself for driving while impaired due to admitting the use of methamphetamine, but the results are still pending,” she said.
Suttles is now being held in the Haywood County Detention Center under no bond.
When asked about this ongoing investigation, Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher said his office is dismayed by the events at the conclusion of the chase.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragedy that occurred yesterday evening when Mr. Suttles made his choice to intentionally drive the wrong way on a highway which led to the crash that took the life of an innocent person,” Christopher said. “Suttles’ choices have changed the lives of the innocent, their families, and everyone else involved in this incident to include the law enforcement officers and first responders that assisted. Choices like the one Suttles made tear at the very core of our society. If he had complied with the law when requested by law enforcement to stop his vehicle on the shoulder of the road, this tragedy would have been avoided. Our sincere prayers are with the families of the victims. Rest assured, this case will be brought to justice.”
In addition to the DWI, Suttles was charged with two counts of trafficking methamphetamine, six counts of failing to appear on felonies, one misdemeanor failure to appear and fleeing to elude arrest with a motor vehicle.
In the past, Suttles has faced a number of charges, including drug charges, larcenies, trespassing, resisting arrest, assault by pointing a gun and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. In addition, he currently has pending charges in Haywood and Buncombe counties that include breaking and entering, possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver, reckless driving and carrying a concealed weapon.