Tatum police chief and Rusk County sheriff talk about fatal pursuit

RUSK COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - A high-speed pursuit ended in a fatal crash for an East Texas student Sunday night. 17 year old Christopher Ballard of Kilgore was killed when he ran into a parked 18-wheeler in Henderson after running from Tatum Police.

KLTV spoke with Tatum Police and the Rusk County Sheriff after the sheriff provided dashcam video from a deputy who was in the pursuit.

According to Tatum Chief of Police April Rains, the pursuit began around 11 p.m. Sunday when a Tatum police officer clocked a vehicle going 83 miles per hour in a 55-mile per hour zone on Highway 43 in Tatum. The officer initiated the emergency lights and the driver, "Failed to stop and continued driving at a high rate of speed through the city of Tatum, through the four-way and into Rusk County," Rains said.

RELATED: Kilgore teen's family speaks out after his fatal crash

In fact he ran the stop sign on his way through town, and Rains said he, "Continued to drive at a very high rate of speed; did not stop. At that point, he was evading in a vehicle, and the officer that was in pursuit had notified Rusk County," Rains said.

DPS and Henderson PD were also notified.

"He was approximately, I think at some points, half a mile or a mile ahead of the officer because his speed was so great," Rains said.

Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Price said a deputy was at 43 and FM 1251 about four miles outside of Henderson.

"At that time of night, fortunately, there was no one out on Highway 43 between Henderson and Tatum," Price said.

The vehicles were traveling over 100 miles per hour, and other law enforcement was responding.

"Troopers were trying to, I believe, get into position to spike the tires on the vehicle to shut it down," Price said.

But he started driving on the wrong side of the road and got past the troopers. He was heading for the star, the intersection of five highways in Henderson.

"For public safety, they shut the intersection down; stopped all traffic," Price explained.

The dashcam shows the car running through the intersection at over 90 miles an hour, and it's not a normal intersection.

"From Highway 43 none of them are straight. You have to make a slight turn any direction to get on the next highway, and he didn't turn," Price said.

He collided with a parked logging truck in a parking lot.

"The car basically exploded," Price added.

The video shows that Ballard hit his brakes at the last moment but it was too late. Ballard didn't survive the impact with the 18 wheeler. Preliminary autopsy results show Ballard died of blunt force injury. Police have not indicated a motive, and the sheriff says they may never know. Ballard's blood has been sent off for toxicology testing.

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