Lt. Clay Kicklighter of the Georgia State Patrol said he was truly appreciative of the support and assistance of local law enforcement agencies and first responders who helped in the apprehension of man attempting to elude police.
Kicklighter personally met and thanked Long County Deputy Danny Dinkin, Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles, Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes and Georgia Department of Natural Resources Officer Sgt. Phillip Scott, Monday at the Liberty County Justice Center.
On April 4, Post 11 GSP Trooper Elmer Martin, was seriously injured after being involved in a head-on collision during a pursuit of a vehicle that was speeding down Talmadge Road in Walthourville. The driver of the speeding Jeep was headed toward Highway 84.
Kicklighter said that the driver, later identified as Ryan R. Storts, took a curve traveling at a high rate of speed which caused him to veer into the opposing lane of traffic. This caused Ashley Bacon, driving a black Impala to attempt an evasive maneuver to avoid a head-on collision with Storts. Instead it caused Bacon to veer into the oncoming path of Trooper Martin’s patrol car.
Bacon, 23 and her passenger Anecia Williams, 39, both of Wayne County and Trooper Martin all sustained serious injuries. Storts who had his two-year old toddler in the car with him, avoided the wreck, bolted from the car and dashed into the woods.
Kicklighter said the scene was emotional for him and his men but the rousing support from the other agencies got the job done and they need to be acknowledged.
“I left my office in Brunswick and one of the first people I saw on the scene was the Sheriff (Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes). We had our fatal accident investigators there. We had guys at the crash site and guys at the site where the suspect had abandoned his vehicle and fled through the woods with his young child. We had troopers that were on their way to the hospital to check on trooper Martin and the other bystanders who were there,” Kicklighter said noting his crew was stretched to their limits.
But thankfully his department had the assistance of the Long County Sheriff’s Office, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, Walthourville Police Department, Ludowici Police Department, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Liberty Fire Services, Walthourville Fire Department and Liberty EMS on hand.
“It was just one of those situations where you had all hands on deck,” he said. “You had a catastrophic event, that had multiple scenes and your resources are stretched out thin and everybody else came together. And it was just awesome. And I wanted to personally thank the sheriff for coming out there and thank Sheriff Nobles, of Long County for coming out there and allowing his guys to cross the county line to help us. We could not have done what we did that night in the apprehension of the driver. It all came together…and guess what…we did it and that guy went to jail. The one that caused all this went to jail.”
Kicklighter noted that the GSP was created in 1937 as a means of supporting local law enforcement agencies with the increasing need of motor vehicle law enforcement.
“We are a support agency…and that is a role we are comfortable in…but last week we found ourselves as an agency in need of support,” he said adding the outreach from all the agencies meant the world to him and his officers.
The lieutenant said it was an off-duty McIntosh County Officer, Sam Franks, who was in plain clothes and happened to be driving through the area, who spotted Storts walking along Highway 84 near Cedar Hill Mobile Home Park.
“Here again you have an off-duty police officer who just got involved in this…it was another piece of the puzzle where everybody just came together,” Kicklighter said.
“He made contact with him and approached him and called for backup," Sgt. Philip Scott of the Georgia DNR added.
Kicklighter said Trooper Martin was scheduled to have reconstructive surgery on his ankle and is still listed in serious condition. The two women are also in serious but stable condition at this time.
The lieutenant said Storts is facing multiple charges of obstructing or hindering law enforcement officers, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, and speeding in excess of maximum limits (State speed and zone limits), and serious injury by vehicle.
Kicklighter also complimented the quick investigative work of the Long County Sheriff’s Office in following up on the suspect which led to the discovery of eight potted marijuana plants, a marijuana grow room, and contraband, that was seized out of his home on Moccasin Road, according to Long County Sheriff’s Investigator Lt. Tom Sollosi.
Sheriff Nobles said Storts will also face charges of manufacture of marijuana, and possession of tools for the commission of a crime. Storts is being held in the Liberty County Jail. Bond has not yet been set.
Sheriff Sikes said the child has since been placed in the care of his grandparents in Ohio. So far there are no charges against the mother but Sikes said he is glad the child is no longer in that environment.
Kicklighter said there is a human aspect to law enforcement that is often overlooked but was front and center during this incident.
“There was a lot of emotions that was running raw. We were worried about that trooper that was hurt. We were worried about that toddler…emotions were pretty raw…but it would have been impossible for us to manage all the scenes we had, and keep our emotions in check without them providing the help that they did,” Kicklighter said.