Cayce police clear officers in pursuit that led to deadly crash - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Cayce police clear officers in pursuit that led to deadly crash

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Scene of deadly crash (Source: SC Highway Patrol) Scene of deadly crash (Source: SC Highway Patrol)
Chamberlain Branch (Source: Facebook) Chamberlain Branch (Source: Facebook)

A Cayce Department of Public Safety internal affairs investigation has concluded that two officers involved in a pursuit that led to a deadly crash were not at fault.

The December, 2012 crash killed 48-year-old Chamberlain Branch, who was on his way home from working second shift as supervisor at the Governor's Mansion. The driver of the car whom Cayce police were chasing also died in the crash.

The investigation of the pursuit that led to the crash concluded that Cayce officers Cpl. John Reese and his officer in training Luis Feliciano worked within department guidelines the night they attempted to pull over 23-year-old Shyborn Belton.

As Belton was speeding away from Reese and Feliciano on Knox Abbot Drive toward Columbia, police say he ran a red light at Blossom and Huger Streets in Columbia and crashed into Branch's vehicle and a taxi, igniting a fire.

The investigation concluded that "the Cayce officers involved in the pursuit did not contribute to the accident." It also concluded the Cayce Police Department's policy and procedure governing vehicle pursuits was not at fault.

In February, the South Carolina Highway Patrol concluded it's investigation into the crash, determining Belton was solely responsible for his death and the events that led up to the collision.

According to the MAIT report obtained by WIS through a Freedom of Information Act request in February, the pursuit started after Reese and Feliciano saw a blue 2011 Hyundai driving with its headlights off on Knox Abbott Drive. 

Reese said in an interview with troopers that he turned on his patrol cruiser's blue lights and the driver didn't stop. At that point, the driver, later identified as Belton, did not speed up or slow down.

Once Belton didn't stop, Reese said he turned on his sirens and left them on. Belton then sped up on Knox Abbott Drive and across the bridge into Columbia. Reese told troopers he slowed down so there would be no accident, but he said the suspect driver never slowed down.

As they approached Blossom and Huger streets, Reese said one driver saw them coming and stopped. However, Branch began crossing over Blossom Street because he had a green light, and that's when the suspect car T-boned Branch's vehicle on the driver's side door.

The collision continued north into a Dodge mini-van taxi that was traveling south on Blossom Street. Branch's van then hit the Columbia Antique Mall and caught fire.

Reese said he immediately got out of his patrol car and went to Branch's vehicle because of the fire. He said Branch was unresponsive when he got to the vehicle and he could not get Branch to wake up. Reese told troopers he tried every door and could not get in the vehicle to get Branch.

Branch died at the scene.

Belton also died at the scene. Two females and one male in the Hyundai vehicle were taken to the hospital in critical condition. There current conditions are not known.

Reese said he didn't look at his speedometer during the pursuit because he was focused on the car they were chasing, but he estimated his speed at 60-70 mph.

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