Family Of Murfreesboro Mom Killed Questions Pursuit

Posted at 7:39 PM, Jun 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-27 20:50:16-04

Family and friends of a Murfreesboro mother killed in a high-speed police pursuit have questioned the motive behind the chase.

Linda Romero, a family friend, believed the chase should not have lasted as long as it did.

"The chase put everybody on the road in danger," Romero frustratingly told NewsChannel 5. "Look what it did, it killed a lady." 

Jessica Campos,  27, died after being struck by a suspect on the run for allegedly stealing an SUV at a Manchester funeral home Friday afternoon. 

Employees of the Coffee County Funeral Chapel said 28-year-old Garieon J. Simmons jumped into the SUV as they were unloading a body. 

"He posed a danger as soon as he left the chapel heading down the wrong way," Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves said. 

Simmons allegedly entered a residential area and almost struck two people in their vehicles. He's later accused of nearly slamming into a Manchester sergeant's patrol car head on. 

"I suddenly observed a black Escalade in my lane of travel at a high rate of speed and coming right at me," Sgt. Landon Pence said in the preliminary investigative report. "I swerved to the right and the stolen vehicle continued to drive erratic and swerved and came back onto the proper side of the road."

Billy Marcum, a 32-year veteran with the Coffee County Sheriff's Department, led the pursuit with Manchester police officers behind him. 

A chase is justified when it poses the risk of loss of life, serious injury, major property damage or other emergency situations, the Coffee County pursuit and high speed operation stated.

The suspect was clocked in traveling 80 mph through busy streets. Simmons led officers to Interstate 24 but was traveling on the wrong side of the road, the police report stated. 

Manchester Chief of Police Mark Yother told NewsChannel 5 his officers backed off once the chase entered Rutherford County. 

Sheriff Graves said his deputies slowed down once losing sight of Simmons. 

"I don't think he was going to slow down, he wasn't going to stop," Sheriff Graves said. 

The Coffee County deputies continued to travel while the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department took over. 

"They kept going because it was a stolen vehicle from our county," Sheriff Graves added.

The chase got off the interstate and down South Church Street near Veterans Parkway where Campos, mother of two young kids, was struck and killed. 

"If he had murdered somebody, that would be a different story but all for a stolen vehicle?!" Romero questioned.

The Rutherford County policy revealed one reason to end a pursuit is if it poses danger to the public or pursuing deputy.

Officials with the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department were unable to comment because the crash was still under the investigation.

Sheriff Graves exclaimed that his deputies did the right thing but continuing the pursuit due to the dangerous risks the alleged suspect created. 

"Our policy is to save lives not cost lives," Sheriff Graves mentioned. "We were trying to stop him from killing anybody but that's exactly what happened."

"I don't know if there would've been a different outcome, it surprised me that this happened all the way to Rutherford County," the sheriff continued. 

Simmons, a Decherd man, was facing seven charges including vehicular homicide at the Rutherford County Jail. 

Investigators believed he was on the run from Franklin County authorities for an alleged armed robbery earlier in the day.