Dade Magistrate Joel McCormick heard preliminary evidence on Wednesday in the Dade County Sheriff's Department's case against Brandon Kyle Bettis, 26, who allegedly led officers on a wild car chase that ended in gunfire this December.
Dade Deputy Casey York told Magistrate Judge Joel McCormick that Bettis sped away after York had stopped him late on the night of Dec. 15 on Slygo Road in North Dade. The window tinting on the white pickup truck Bettis was driving attracted York's attention, and when he checked the license plate it came back as a stolen one, associated with no vehicle. The truck was later impounded by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and its ownership remained unclear even during Wednesday's preliminary hearing.
When the driver fled, Deputy York called for backup and was joined by Deputy Kelvin Haswell. With both the lawmen in pursuit, Bettis turned down a dirt road called, coincidentally, Haswell Lane.
York said Bettis tore recklessly down Haswell Lane, which he described as a narrow bumpy tract lined with several homes from which residents emerged to watch the spectacle. "The speeds weren't great but for the circumstances they were extremely high," he said.
Haswell Lane dead-ends, said York, and Bettis came to a stop when he found himself hemmed in by a junk pile and residences to front and sides and the two patrol cars behind. But when the deputies emerged from their cruisers to arrest him, Bettis threw the truck into reverse and slammed into Deputy Haswell's car. The car in turn struck York, knocking him over, he reported.
York got back up, he testified, and as he and Haswell both shouted orders at Bettis, Bettis again reversed toward them as if to run them over. York shot his gun three times at the car and Haswell, who was more directly in the truck's reversing path, shot
York said the shots were intended to stop the vehicle, which they did, and that because of the window tinting he and Haswell had been unable to discern that Bettis had a passenger beside him. That passenger, an 18-year-old female, was originally charged in the incident but charges have since been dismissed.
After the vehicle was stopped by the disabling shots--one was to a rear tire--the officers, joined by that time by reinforcements, were able to arrest Bettis and his passenger without further incident. Bettis was found to have a small amount of marijuana in his pocket and was given a blood test the results of which were not yet available. York said that Bettis, who appeared at the hearing with attorney Philip Alosio of the Public Defender's office, had complained at the scene of pain in his back and shoulders but that York had not observed him to have sustained any injury.
Judge McCormick bound the case over to Dade Superior Court, which will hold its spring session in April.
McCormick explained after the hearing that he routinely hears preliminary evidence in criminal cases, for the purpose of ascertaining that enough evidence exists for them to proceed to the higher court. If not, he has the option of dismissing them.
Bettis has since the incident been detained in the Dade jail, facing a variety of charges including DUI and felony assault for his alleged attempt to run over the two deputies. McCormick said he frequently does not set bail if charges are serious or if the defendant has few local connections and is considered a flight risk.
Bettis is listed as coming from McDonald, Tenn., on the arrest record.