COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It was a scene that riveted the attention of TV viewers all over the state and nation: A high-speed chase ending with a crash and a dramatic confrontation between a Richland County deputy and the driver of the SUV he was pursuing. All playing out on A&E's "Live PD," the program that uses live broadcasts to follow law enforcement agencies working in several states.
Martin lost control and flipped the vehicle onto its roof. Seconds later, he emerged with his two-year-old daughter under his arm. Mastrianni began struggling with the suspect, who eventually dropped the girl.
The deputy called for help but nearby onlookers did not respond before other deputies arrived.
State law says law enforcement officers trying to make an arrest can "call out the bystanders" for assistance. Section 23-15-70 says they are required to help and could face a misdemeanor charge carrying a possible jail sentence and fine if they refuse.
SECTION 23-15-70. Call out for assistance or posse comitatus; penalty for refusing to assist.
Any sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable or other officers specially empowered may call out the bystanders or posse comitatus of the proper county to his assistance whenever he is resisted or has reasonable grounds to suspect and believe that such assistance will be necessary in the service or execution of process in any criminal case and any deputy sheriff may call out such posse comitatus to assist in enforcing the laws and in arresting violators or suspected violators thereof. Any person refusing to assist as one of the posse comitatus in the service or execution of such process, when required by the sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable or other officers shall be liable to be indicted therefor and upon conviction shall be fined and imprisoned, at the discretion of the court any person who shall fail to respond and render assistance when summoned by a deputy sheriff to assist in enforcing the laws and in arresting violators or suspected violators thereof shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction shall be fined not less than thirty nor more than one hundred dollars or imprisoned for thirty days.
Deputy Chief Chris Cowan says it is less important for his department to file charges against those who choose not to help an officer in need. But he says the sheriff's department needs members of the community to feel they should assist.
"Citizen involvement is the key to successful community," Cowan says. "We've always pushed that. And it doesn't matter where it's a crime watch or a situation like this."
A quick survey of people on Columbia's Main Street turned up several who had little hesitation about helping.
"In the world we live in nowadays, I think we've forgotten one of the worst things we can do is be people of indifference," said Chad Alexander of Columbia.
Denise McCain, who has a brother in police work, told us she understood what officers go through and would try to help when asked, even if it put her at personal risk.
"At some point in time, we all need assistance," said Michael Dumas of Lexington, Ohio. "I would assume he's doing the right thing and I would definitely help."
But there was disagreement on the issue from Tashad White of Kingstree.
"I don't think I can see myself helping the officer," White said. "I don't have any evidence of why I should help him make the arrest."