‘He is a hero’: Lake City police officer killed in crash stemming from chase

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 12:28 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 8:20 PM EDT
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FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) – A police chase ended in a deadly crash that claimed the life of a police officer in the Pee Dee.

Lake City officials said Friday that Lt. John Stewart was killed in a crash that happened near Lee’s Body Shop on North Matthews Road.

“In the performance of his duties, he made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lake City Police Chief Jody Cooper. “This is a sad day for Lake City.”

Cooper said Stewart was someone known in the community for years, and that Stewart had a career in law enforcement spanning more than two decades.

“We’re going to make sure that we stay in a manner that is befitting of him being professional and respected,” Cooper said. “In a manner in which he performed his duties every day.”

Lake City Mayor Lovith Anderson, Jr. also spoke at a press conference Friday afternoon, asking everyone to keep the family and the city in their prayers. Florence County Councilman Jason Springs was also in attendance, calling it a “monumentally horrible day.”

“He is a hero for the Lake City Police Department,” Springs said. “He’s not only a police officer in Lake City but he’s been a member of our community. He’s a well-respected officer and very professional in all he’s ever done.

Former Lake City mayor Larue Alford remembered Stewart as dependable and was looking forward to lunch soon to catch up.

“He’s the type of fellow you could call any time if you have any type of problem,” he said. “I had a little problem the other day, so I called him. We talked for a little while and I said, ‘If you’re off one day, let’s go out to lunch.’”

The Florence County Sheriff’s Office said late Friday that they’re working to determine if another incident in the area was related to Stewart’s death.

Deputies said a carjacking occurred on Frierson Road shortly after Stewart’s death, where a suspect allegedly pushed someone out of a vehicle and stole it. That person was not seriously hurt.

A deputy then spotted a vehicle matching the description of the stolen vehicle, and eventually initiated a PIT maneuver on Central Road near Olanta. The suspect vehicle ran into a ditch as a result, but the driver was taken into custody. The deputy also sustained minor injuries but is expected to be OK.

The suspect is being held at the Florence County Detention Center, but information regarding their identity was not immediately available.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating Stewart’s death.

All while the community mourns the loss of one of its own.

“Anything he could do to help you, that’s the type of fellow John Stewart was,” Alford said. “We all are saddled in Lake City with a heartbreak today.”

This is a developing story. Stay with WMBF News for updates.

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