About 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, Columbus Police Officer James Hanson was patrolling on Southside when he attempted to stop a car for a seatbelt violation. The car, a green late-90’s Chevrolet Camaro, pulled over near the intersection of 6th Street and 7th Avenue South.
The driver, later identified as Christopher Lewis, could be seen messing with something behind the passenger seat of the Camaro. After a moment, Lewis was on the gas, speeding east on 7th Avenue. Officer Hanson turned off his blue lights and proceeded to follow Lewis. [Hanson did not attempt to catch the car, as it is against CPD policy to pursue a fleeing vehicle at high speeds. Officers are told to turn off their blue lights and back off, encouraging the runners to slow down and be more mindful of the people and vehicles around them. The idea is to reduce the number of injuries due to reckless runners. – JD]
Hanson witnessed Lewis running five stop signs before the Camaro went out of sight. The officer continued driving in the direction in which the car disappeared and eventually came upon the Camaro in the 700 block of Pickensville Road. Lewis had lost control of the sports car in the S-curve of Pickensville Road, spun out and plowed into a chain-link fence on the north side of the road. He also hit several short creosote posts that lined the face of the fence. [The posts were planted along the fence by the owner of a shop that sits inside the S-curve. According to him, the fence has been hit by roughly a dozen cars in recent history. The relatively cheap creosote poles were an attempt to preserve the much pricier chain-link fence. On average, one can expect to pay $40-$60 for a 25-foot-long creosote utility pole (roughly $2-$3 per foot). Alternately, chain-link prices run around $7.50-$15 per foot for a six-foot-tall fence. Understandably, the land owner was very upset that the Camaro had damaged a long section of fence (including bending several fence poles). – JD]
When Officer Hanson arrived on scene, the Camaro was deserted. He called for additional officers to help search for the runner. The resident of a home across the street from the wreckage came outside and told Hanson that he saw a man get out of the car and run behind his house, all while carrying a baby. Officer Hanson rounded the house and started searching the nearby treeline for Lewis.
Not far from the home, Lewis was hiding in some bushes. Hanson spotted the would-be escapee and drew his weapon, ordering Lewis to come out of hiding. At this point, Lewis pushed the child that he held out away from him and stated that he was surrendering.
The baby was four-year-old Jaylin “JJ” Bigbee.
Lewis and the child were taken back out to the scene of the wreck where back-up officers were waiting. Officers Lance Luckey, Kelvin Lee, Investigator Don Richardson and Cpl. Barry Goode answered the call to assist.
Lewis was questioned about a responsible guardian for the boy and eventually told the officers that the child’s mother, Kendria Bigbee, could be reached at The Commercial Dispatch, where she works in the mail room. Officer Lee contacted the Dispatch’s office and after several minutes was able to talk to Bigbee and inform her of the situation. Meanwhile, Lewis was placed in the back of Hanson’s patrol car.
While waiting for his mother to arrive, officers talked to little JJ to make sure he was ok. JJ let them know that he wasn’t scared. [JJ is a very brave boy, but I don’t believe that he grasped the gravity of the situation. – JD] An ambulance was called to the scene to check the boy out, and it arrived about the same time his mother did.
Officer Hanson also asked JJ if Lewis had given him anything to hold, obviously meaning any contraband such as drugs. The child had nothing. Lewis started yelling for Hanson to come to the car. When he had the officer’s attention, Lewis said, “I would never do that to that boy. I wouldn’t give him anything that would hurt him!” Hanson quickly answered with, “Shut up! You put him in danger driving like that! You could have killed him!”
Kendria Bigbee arrived at the scene, very worried about her little boy. JJ was given a clean bill of health by EMTs and was released to his mom after she spoke with Officer Hanson. As they were leaving, Hanson asked her, “Please just be careful who you leave him with. He’s too handsome a boy to let him get killed by an idiot like this.”
Investigator Richardson spoke with Lewis, who pointed him to a bag of weed in the center console of the Camaro. The car was fully searched to make sure there were no additional drugs inside. The officers found no more drugs. [There was, however, a copy of Packet #963 in the trunk. Thanks for reading, Chris. – JD] It was suspected that Lewis may have discarded more drugs because he had an unusually large wad of money in his pocket, and the two often go hand-in-hand.
A wrecker from Auto Mart arrived to load up the Camaro. The car was wedged into the fence and protective posts so tightly, that extracting it caused even more damage. [Unfortunately, not enough damage to keep the car off the streets. – JD] One more thing was missing from the car — a child’s carseat. Little JJ had been unrestrained in the backseat during the mad dash across Southside and through the subsequent wreck. Lewis told officers that when he stopped on 7th Avenue, it was to put JJ behind the passenger seat “so he wouldn’t get hurt.”
Lewis has been arrested six times since December 2001 on charges ranging from Possession of Marijuana to Careless Driving and Domestic Violence. This is his third arrest that included a charge of Improper Child Restraint, so endangering children is nothing new for him. [It was mentioned by an officer on scene that Lewis has only been out of jail for about two months. – JD]
On their way to the LCADC, Hanson stopped and got the location of every stop sign he saw Lewis run as he crossed Southside.
In Wednesday’s arrest, Lewis was charged with No Insurance, Driving with a Suspended Driver’s License, Possession of Marijuana in a Vehicle, No Seatbelt, Failure to Yield to Blue Lights, five counts of Disobeying a Traffic Control Device and Improper Child Restraint. He was out hours later on a $3700.00 bond.