CPD Officers Speak on March 6 High-Speed Chase, Shootout
By Teresa Holloway
Messenger Reporter
CROCKETT – It’s not often law enforcement officers have an opportunity to share their personal perspectives on the more dangerous aspects of their chosen careers.
The definitive Nov. 14 conviction of Georgia parole violator Earl Williams, Jr. and his wife Kayleigh Davis created that opportunity.
In this rare interview, Crockett Police officers involved in a high-speed chase and shootout were given leave to come forward and give an inside look into the stark reality of their jobs.
The chase and shootings began in Crockett at 3 a.m. on Mar. 6 and spanned several county roads. It ended about one mile from Grapeland with the crash of the suspect’s vehicle on FM 228. What followed was a tense, dangerous foot chase and the physical apprehension of both suspects.
Williams and Davis, pulled over while departing the scene of a residential disturbance, opted not to halt for police. Instead, they sped away in their vehicle and repeatedly fired a shotgun at pursuing officers.
Crockett Police Sergeant Alfredo Fajardo had no idea the night would explode into such unusual activity when he began his shift. “March 6 started off as a relatively slow night,” he said.
“I remember thinking that it was going to be a long night like most, even after we got the ‘routine’ call of some type of disturbance or burglary in Snyder’s Trailer Park,” Fajardo said.
Crockett Police Lieutenant Clayton Smith agreed. “It was a normal night for me. I was off duty and at my residence in a deep sleep when my phone rang. It was Chief Cross, and I knew at that time of the morning, the news could not be good.”
Smith said, “Chief Cross said, ‘Get dressed, Todd and Frito are in a vehicle pursuit and the suspects have shot at them multiple times.”
Fajardo started out as back-up for Officer Todd Little on the disturbance call received by dispatch at approximately 3 a.m. that morning.
“I saw the suspect vehicle coming out of the trailer park and saw it was not stopping. Officer Little got behind it with his emergency lights. After it stopped, he walked up to the driver’s side and I walked up to the passenger side, just like always. That’s a safety procedure.
“When I saw the shotgun next to the female passenger’s leg, I alerted Officer Little and the suspect’s car sped off. I knew this was serious,” Fajardo continued.
The chase was on. Fajardo, Little and later Lieutenant Lonnie Lum and two Grapeland police officers, Mike Merchant and Johnny Romo, pursued the suspect’s vehicle for miles at a high rate of speed.
Back across town, Smith had geared up and was en route to the officer’s last known location.
“I had a million things running through my mind during the pursuit,” Fajardo said. “I was making sure policies were being followed, proper people or agencies were being notified and considering potential dangers that awaited us down the road,” he said.
As the second officer in the pursuit, Fajardo became directly responsible for radio traffic and coordination from the street to dispatch and other officers.
“I don’t think I had time to be worried or scared, except for the well-being of the occasional motorist we passed. Several times, the suspect drove on the wrong side of the road and the wrong way across the town square.
Fajardo recalled the traffic was very light at the time, fortunately. “No innocent people were injured.”
“I remember passing the area where I live and knew my wife was probably still awake and hearing the sirens. There is no way she could know what was going on and she was probably worrying about me, although she knows I’ve always made it home to her even if it’s been with bruises, cuts, scrapes and other injuries,” Fajardo said.
As the pursuit passed Happy Hollow Road near SH 287, Little, in the lead car, notified Fajardo the suspects were firing a weapon at the law enforcement vehicles.
“That was about the same time the projectiles hit the front of the car,” Fajardo said. “I do not remember getting scared, but I do remember thinking, ‘This is really happening.’ I had been in some sketchy situations in the past, but this was far worse.”
At 3 a.m., the darkness was complete on the rural road. The pursuing officers could not visually determine who was firing on them from the eluding vehicle.
“We didn’t know who was firing from within the vehicle and if the passenger was a victim or an innocent party.
“That’s the reason we didn’t fire back. One of my worries was for Officer Little. He was much closer than I was and would be the most likely to get struck or injured. I knew he could handle himself. He is one of the most tactically proficient officers I know,” Fajardo said.
The worry for fellow officers remains, despite confidence in law enforcement abilities.
At any time after the districts changed, CPD officers could have peeled off from the chase and left the danger to another agency. That didn’t happen.
“We are constantly reminded, especially during training, that our goal is to make it home safe. It’s a great goal, but as a law enforcement officer, I don’t believe it’s accurate,” Fajardo opined. “Our goal is to protect the community at all costs by catching the bad guy, in this case, the suspects flying through the county blasting shots out of the back window.”
Regardless of the outcome, permitting the escape of dangerous suspects was not going to happen, according to Fajardo. “I had it in my mind that Officer Little and I were not going to let them get away and we were going to catch them one way or the other.”
As the pursuit continued, officers noted the suspect’s car beginning to fall apart. “I knew it would end soon, either with the car wrecking out or stopping somewhere,” Fajardo said.
“I began to mentally prepare myself for that moment. I didn’t know if the suspects would run or stand their ground and continue to fight with the firearm,” Fajardo added.
Fajardo recounted his hope the suspects would simply surrender, preventing further dangers to civilians, officers and the suspects themselves.
At that moment, the situation dynamic changed drastically. Fajardo’s predictions were proven accurate when the suspect’s vehicle went out of control, crashing off the roadway and through a fence on FM 228.
“I was hoping they would give up, or at least ditch the gun and run, but I was mentally prepared for a gunfight. Luckily, the suspects had jammed a shell backwards in the shotgun and they both decided to get out and run,” Fajardo said.
Tension escalated, Fajardo explained, after the suspects began to flee on foot. “I saw him run toward a house. A million more things ran through my head, not knowing if the suspect was still armed and was going to run into the house and take hostages or run around the back.”
Life-saving reactions to both potential scenarios raced through the officers minds.
“Luckily, he chose to run around back and was caught a short time later by Officer Little. We placed him under arrest after a scuffle,” Fajardo said. “My mind immediately shifted to getting the female apprehended.
“She was caught a short time later after Officer Little, Officer Mike Merchant and Officer Johnny Romo of Grapeland Police Department found her hiding in some brush not far from the crash site,” Fajardo explained.
After the dust settled and the officers had a moment to catch their collective breath, concerns about worried family members rose to the front of their minds.
“I texted my wife and told her I was okay … she was worried sick until I was finally able to tell her I wasn’t hurt during the incident,” Fajardo said.
Smith’s fiance, back at their home, had only been told bare details to prevent undue alarm. “I tried to tell her in an un-alarming manner Todd and Alfredo were in a high-speed chase. I left out some details on purpose,” he said.
Social media can often cause unnecessary fear and alarm in the already worried minds of family members, as rumors and exaggerations begin making the wire, according to Fajardo.
Despite the fence post through the front windshield of the suspect’s vehicle after the crash, despite the number of shotgun pellets embedded in the officers’ vehicles, no one was seriously hurt, Fajardo recalled.
“Williams (the driver) had scratched himself up pretty bad running through two barbed wire fences,” the sergeant stated. “I talked to him later, on the way to the jail, and he thanked us for not killing him or his wife, although he stated his intentions were for us to take his life.
“I was also thankful that we did not have to do that,” Fajardo said.
Fajardo and Little met Cross, Smith and Corporal Gates at the Mobil Mart in Grapeland.
Smith immediately checked the officers’ health and safety status. “As I listened to the details of what had taken place, I immediately had to contain my emotions. I realized this was the closest near-death experience that our agency has ever engaged in,” he said.
As investigator, Smith questioned the suspects. “As I listened to their explanations of why they did the things they did, I was amazed at how the mind set of people can be so different in the way they perceive their actions.”
Understanding the chain of events from start to finish, Smith said, “Little and Fajardo, for whatever reason, were put in a situation to fight pure evil and not only did they win that fight, they won it while showing great bravery, courage, professionalism and the determination to protect our community.”
During the investigation, Smith learned of the suspect’s Aryan Brotherhood affiliation. He and fellow officers saw the case through the court process. “When the jury finished hearing the case, they sent a strong message to Williams by sentencing him to 55 years for each officer,” he said.
That message was simple. “I think this sentence was fair and the message to others who think about harming police officers –our community will not tolerate this type of behavior,” Smith said.
Williams was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and sentenced to 55 years for each count. He was also sentenced to ten years for Possession of a Firearm by a Felon and seven years for Evading Arrest/Detention with a vehicle.
His wife Kayleigh Davis received a sentence of seven years for her part in the crime. According to the DA’s office, even though she shot at the patrol cars from the moving vehicle, Davis was perceived as another ‘victim’ of Williams.
Chief David Cross, faced with the responsibility for the citizens of Crockett and the safety of his officers, expressed gratitude at the conviction of the offenders.
“The jury in Crockett and Houston County sent a strong message to those criminals who want to do harm to our officers. The message is, “We have your back, we support our police, and you will pay a high price if you attempt to harm one of our police officers.
“In this particular case, the jury protected the ones who protect,” Cross said. “I am proud of our officers. They showed great bravery in pursuing these dangerous criminals, even after being fired upon during the pursuit.”
Cross explained despite rigorous training for these and other life-threatening situations, when the incident actually happens, it is still brutally challenging.
“Our jobs are getting more dangerous every year. I worry about them. They put their lives on the line protecting all of us each day and while we sleep comfortably in our homes at night,” he said in a clear verbal demonstration of loyalty to his officers. At Crockett Police Department, that works both ways.
“Every officer knows dangerous situations are part of their job description, the pay is low, the hours are demanding … but it never stops them from doing a job not many people want or can handle,” he said.
Each of the officers expressed gratitude to the community and the citizens, fellow officers and the DA’s office, who made the message of law enforcement and ‘protection of the protectors’ such a unified stance.
terholloway@hotmail.com