fatal crash

Jackson firemen at the scene of Friday’s wreck that killed five. (Photo courtesy Jackson Argus-Progress)

Monroe County sheriff Brad Freeman said his deputy who tried to stop a driver on Friday that later killed five people in a head-on crash is pretty shaken up, though he followed sheriff’s office policy to a T and ended his chase well before the fatal wreck.

Monroe County deputy Thomas Haskins stopped a green Chevy Impala, a rental car, for weaving and tailgating on I-75 north just south of the Johnstonville Road exit. The stop happened around 5 p.m. 

But the driver, later identified as Shikym Jenkins, 23, of Garden City, had felony warrants in Chatham County and took off as Haskins was walking to the stopped Impala. Jenkins fled at speeds of 130 mph and Haskins pursued for about six miles to the High Falls exit where Jenkins took the ramp at a “blistering speed”. Haskins pulled into the grass by the exit ramp and then saw a lot of smoke and skid marks and thought it was the suspect. But after investigating Haskins found that it was not the suspect. He continued on I-75 north to the Hwy. 36 exit in Butts County, but never saw the Impala again and headed back south to Forsyth.

Jenkins, meanwhile, continued his reckless fleeing on Hwy. 36 toward Jackson. Jenkins met a Butts County deputy heading in the opposite direction and the deputy had to swerve to avoid the Impala, now traveling about 110 mph. As the Butts deputy waited for traffic to clear to turnaround and pursue, Jenkins slammed head on into a pickup truck containing two elderly couples from Covington. They were on their way to a date night at Buckner’s Family Restaurant in Milner.

The wives, Judy Martin, 72, and Sandra Bowden, 76, who were sitting in the backseat, were both killed in the crash, according to the Jackson Progress-Argus. The driver Thomas Bowden, 79, was taken to a Macon hospital in critical condition and front passenger Ronald Martin, 76, was taken to an Atlanta hospital in stable condition. 

Jenkins’ two passengers, Ebony Young, 25, of Savannah and Sukquawn Hayes, 26, of Garden City, were also killed instantly. Hayes was found with a loaded pistol in his dead hand, said Freeman, and was also wanted out of Chatham County. Young, the female passenger in the Impala, was released from prison last December after serving two months of a six-year sentence on charges involving drug possession and fleeing law enforcement.

“This is your criminal justice reform,” said Freeman, noting that new Georgia law is allowing shorter terms for criminals.

Jenkins died on Saturday.

Freeman said the fact that one suspect still had a loaded gun at his death shows how dangerous the situation was for Haskins. “If they hadn’t sped out, he may have gotten shot,” said Freeman. “They had ample opportunity to get rid of that gun and chose not to.”

Freeman said he doesn’t understand why the suspect was still driving like an idiot at speeds over 100 mph when Haskins had ended the pursuit eight miles prior, noting he could’ve stopped at the truck stop or fast food places at Hwy. 36 to hide from authorities.

“Instead he chose to murder four other people,” said Freeman.

Freeman said Haskins handled the chase properly, and that while his deputies will try to stop lawbreakers, they will not endanger the public by copying reckless and out of control drivers. Some have noted that Haskins was driving the sheriff’s office’s new Camaros unveiled in last week’s Reporter, but Freeman said that didn’t have any effect on what happened.

“When they start cutting people off in traffic and show total disregard for human life,” said Freeman, “we’re not gonna do it. The suspect is taking risks we’re not gonna take.”

Still, Freeman said Haskins was shaken up when he heard about the fatalities and they have offered him counseling.

Freeman said part of him wishes the driver had lived so he could’ve faced justice for what he did.

“He didn’t care about anybody’s life,” said Freeman, “not even his own.”

Some of the information in this story is courtesy the Jackson Progress-Argus.