Town officials say the deaths are unfortunate, but say police officers were following policy and that investigations by the state Highway Patrol cleared them. They say those who died are responsible for crashing their vehicles while trying to elude police.
The grandfather of one of those killed disagrees, saying the police recklessly pursued the drivers in cases that were essentially traffic violations.
Clifford Harris calls the death of his 18-year-old grandson, Christopher, "senseless" and says the early-morning accident on Dec. 2 could have been avoided if not for "gung-ho police." The Harris family filed a lawsuit on June 5 against the town.
"I lost my grandson and it was totally unnecessary" Harris said.
Gabriel McMillan, 18, and Christopher Harris died in when they wrecked about 1:30 a.m. on McDuffie Crossing Road in Rennert. The high-speed chase began when the 1996 Mazda 626 that Harris, McMillian and two other youths were traveling in struck another car in the parking lot of a car wash on Union Chapel Road.
Police officers Chad Locklear and Dewayne Hunt chased the teens to Rennert -- more than 10 miles away -- when the Mazda failed to negotiate a curve and crashed. The officers were placed on administrative leave until the state Highway Patrol investigated the incident. The officers were later cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to work.
"The town police chased him 16 miles out of Pembroke when they are only supposed to go for three miles," Clifford Harris said. "I think the officers just got caught up in it, but that is no excuse."
Harris said the police had the car's license plate number and could have picked up his grandson at his home the next day.
"They could have broken off the chase at any point and those two boys would be alive today," he said. "If you're in that kind of position, you have to use some common sense. If those boys had shot at someone, I would have chased them to the county line. But for a little misdemeanor, no way."
Harris said he is troubled that another Pembroke police chase earlier this month ended in another death.
Gary Wayne Maynor, 27, of Shannon, was killed June 9 when he lost control of his motorcycle after being chased by Pembroke police. Maynor was traveling 75 mph in a 25-mph zone when the motorcycle went off the road at a curve in a dirt portion of Pine Street and into a ditch. The police officers ended the chase seconds before the crash because Maynor was driving recklessly, according to Police Chief Travis Bryant.
Gary Wayne Maynor's mother, Catherine, declined to be interviewed.
"People need to know what is going on with the Pembroke police and the town. They have caused the deaths of three people with this reckless policy of literally chasing people to death," Harris said. "It needs to be stopped."
Pembroke officials portray the incidents differently. Town Manager McDuffie Cummings says there is nothing wrong with the town's police or policies. Cummings said the town will "vigorously defend itself" against the Harris suit.
"I think we have a good policy," Cummings said. "Individuals need to stop when the blue light and the siren is activated. It is much cheaper than trying to outrun the officer. We're sorry about the recent accidents, but I also feel strongly that people have to start obeying the law."
Bryant says that Pembroke's chase policy is similar to those of other police departments in the county. He says the policy allows police to chase someone suspected of a misdemeanor for a total of three miles. If additional crimes are being committed during the chase itself -- such as speeding and eluding police -- officers can continue the pursuit. He says that is what occurred in the Harris case.
"It depends on what is going on," Bryant said. "If more crimes are being committed and the officer feels justified, he can continue the chase. It is his call."
The policy also says that if the danger to the driver or the public exceeds the reason for the chase, the chase may be terminated, Bryant said.
"Again, that is a judgment call for officers," Bryant said.
Cummings said his officers were not culpable for the Gary Wayne Maynor accident. He said a report released Monday by the state Highway Patrol backs up that assertion.
State Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Randy Hammonds says his department's investigation of the accident determined there was no culpability on the part of the officers.
"There are a lot of rumors flying around, but we have concluded that there is no evidence that the patrol cars were in any way involved in the collision," he said. "It was a one-vehicle collision."
Hammonds said a state toxicology report showed that Maynor had a blood-alcohol level of .08 at the time of the accident. In North Carolina, a level of .08 or higher is illegal.
Maynor had been spinning the tires of his 2001 Harley Davidson motorcycle in the middle of Normal Street in Pembroke at about 10:30 p.m. when police approached him. He sped away and Officer Charles Maynor and Sgt. Frank Hernandez pursued him for four or five minutes in separate cars. Bryant said officers had planned to charge Gary Wayne Maynor with careless and reckless driving.
Hammonds said the accident occurred at about 10:35, about 12 seconds after the officers terminated the chase.
"The officers were recorded on tape saying that they were going to discontinue the chase at the corner of Pine and Seventh streets," Hammonds said. "Then about 10 to 12 seconds later, they called in a collision and asked for an ambulance. We've determined to our satisfaction that they had terminated the chase. There is no evidence that he was knocked on the motorcycle by the police officers."
Cummings would not say if the police officers in either incident were reprimanded or violated town policy.
"That's getting into personnel," he said. "All I can say is that they are back to work and doing a good job."