The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Police fatally shoot Raleigh man accused of theft after high-speed chase

“The officer has a right to defend himself or a third party,” said Lt. Hope Newkirk, spokeswoman for the Greensboro Police Department, in response to the events of Jan. 3, which resulted in the fatal shooting of Emile Baptist Williams. Accused of stealing two diamond rings worth $36,200 from Helzberg Diamonds in the Four Seasons Town Centre, Williams subsequently ran from the store, hopped in his black Honda Accord, which the police confirmed as stolen, and fled eastbound down Interstate 40, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph, according to the GPD search warrant.

Off-duty Officer William Symmes was the first to respond and chased Williams down the interstate until Williams eventually lost control of his vehicle in an effort to turn onto the Interstate 85 exit ramp. Williams’ vehicle then collided with Symmes’ green police-issued SUV, totaling Williams’ vehicle.

What followed, according to the warrant, was a “physical altercation” between the two men, in which Williams eventually tried to make his getaway — this time in the police cruiser. Then Symmes grabbed onto the cruiser as it was pulling away, refusing to let Williams escape.

“Officer Symmes, apparently unable to stop the suspect from dragging him down the highway, drew his duty firearm and shot the suspect once in the neck-head area,” the warrant said, according to The News and Record.

The SUV quickly rolled to a stop along the embankment, emergency vehicles arriving shortly thereafter.

But what about the rings? After a thorough search of Williams’ vehicle, little was found, other than three North Carolina license plates, a ball cap and a grey sweatshirt. No weapons were found either.

Because of these ambiguities, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is investigating the shooting. No comment has been made yet by the agency concerning its progress on the case.

Williams’ sister, Clariennette Williams, was the first member of his family to be notified of his death. She, in addition to the SBI, is curious as to whether Williams was armed, as it remains uncertain exactly what factors provoked Symmes to shoot.

“The officer in this case allegedly was in mortal danger of being dragged away by the SUV,” said Assistant Professor of Justice and Policy Studies John Motsinger. “One concern I do have, however, is whether a high speed chase, reaching 100 mph, was warranted in a property crime situation.”

According to The News and Record, Williams had a criminal record reaching back to 1986, having served prison sentences on 10 separate occasions since for larceny, felony robbery, assaulting an officer and speeding from the police.

Many of his family members were not aware of this, however, as he was remembered most fondly as a barber.

“He always had a fascination with cutting hair,” his sister, Clarrienette, said to The News and Record. “He used to cut my son’s hair and everybody else’s sons’ hair.”

Williams was 39. He lived in Raleigh.

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