Deadly police chase & crash: What was said that night

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - New details today about what took place moments after a high speed police chase and crash that killed a Richmond pastor.

In a pre-trial hearing today in Richmond Circuit Court, we learned suspect Darryl Harris, 26, had at least two brief conversations with the officer who chased him that night. To prosecutors, the talks reveal his state of mind, following the deadly crash.

Moments after the high-speed collision the night of March 24, police say suspect Darryl Harris got out of his wrecked vehicle and started running. When he finally was caught, the officer who first chased him by car, and now on foot, had a question.

According to testimony, Henrico Police Officer Scott Motley asked "Why did you run?" Motley testified that Harris said he had "just smoked a blunt" adding that he "had a gun in the car."

Later, the two men walked by the intersection where the crash took place, and saw the truck in which Apostle Anthony Taylor was killed. According to Motley, Harris was surprised. "What was that?," he said.

Motley told him, "That was the truck you hit." According to Motley, Harris said, "I thought I just spun out."

It was decided today that the Commonwealth's Attorney will be able to use the testimony in next month's trial.

"Anytime you have the statements of the defendant you want to utilize those as much as you can because it  demonstrates their state of mind," said prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland.

Defense attorney Michael Morchower downplayed the remarks.

"I don't think there was much said to Officer Motley, so I'm fine with the decision," he said.

What prosecutors didn't get, though, was another conversation Harris had with an investigator. Judge Margaret P. Spencer wouldn't allow it because Harris was -- by that point -- in custody, and not told about his right to remain silent.

"The [investigator] said he didn't advise the suspect of his constitutional rights when he was in custody," Morchower said.

Also in court, the judge ruled the case will focus only on the actions of Harris, and not the pursuit policy of Henrico Police. Since March, the case has received widespread attention because it happened following a high speed police chase that started in Henrico and crossed into Richmond's Church Hill District, killing Taylor, a beloved preacher who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I think it's entirely appropriate for our elected officials to have a healthy debate about policy decisions on pursuits and the use of checkpoints. But in this case what's relevant were the actions of Mr. Harris," Thorne-Begland said.

On Monday, prosecutors also will seek three more indictments against Harris: Aggravated involuntary manslaughter, eluding police, and second-offense DUI. Harris, who today appeared with a new close-cropped haircut, already faces charges of second degree murder and hit and run. His two-day jury trial is set to begin July 14.

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