Kingsport motorcyclist accused of driving 156 mph in Mount Carmel; was he testing new speed cameras?

Jeff Bobo • Apr 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel police theorize that a Kingsport man allegedly caught last week on radar driving a motorcycle 156 mph on Highway 11-W was attempting to test the town’s new speed enforcement cameras.

Although the speed cameras haven’t been activated yet, there was an officer shooting radar on the highway that morning to record the speed.

A Mount Carmel Police Department arrest warrant was served Sunday on Loda Eugene Ward Jr., 23, 474 Allen Drive, Kingsport, charging him with reckless driving and speeding 156 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Charges are also reportedly pending against Ward from the Church Hill Police Department and Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office stemming from the incident that occurred March 25 around 1:30 a.m., although those exact charges weren’t available as of Monday.

According to reports, MCPD Officer Ken Lunsford was shooting radar on 11-W the morning of March 25 near the Belmont Avenue intersection when he heard a radio BOLO (be on the lookout) report from Church Hill police pursuing an orange and black Honda motorcycle heading eastbound on 11-W near the Mount Carmel town line.

Lunsford stated in the arrest warrant that his frontal radar verified the motorcycle’s speed at 156 mph, and as the motorcycle passed he switched to rear radar and verified the speed at 156 mph again. Lunsford also shined his spotlight on the motorcycle as it passed and observed that it was the orange and black bike mentioned in the BOLO, and also that the rider was wearing a black and silver jacket.

MCPD Assistant Chief Mike Campbell said Monday that a Hawkins County sheriff’s deputy had contact with Ward earlier in the evening, and Ward matched that same description.

At that speed there was no pursuit, but an arrest warrant was issued for Ward. Police weren’t able to find him to serve the warrant until Sunday, Campbell said.

Campbell said Monday he suspects Ward was testing the recently installed speed enforcement camera because Ward had allegedly taken the license plate off the motorcycle.

“The cameras had just been installed, and to remove the license plate off the rear of the motorcycle tells me his intention was to beat the camera,” Campbell said. “By taking the tag off he knew the photo wouldn’t be able to identify the motorcycle by the registration, and we think that’s why he took the tag off.”

But the question on officers’ minds after the incident was whether the Redflex cameras would have captured an image of the motorcycle traveling that fast had the camera been activated.

Mount Carmel police had a meeting with Redflex officials last week after the incident to pose that question and were told the cameras and the shutter speed will capture the image of a vehicle speeding 180 to 200 mph.

Incidents of police catching motorcycles on radar pushing the 100 mph mark have become fairly common on 11-W in Hawkins County. None has even come close to the 150 mph mark, however, and Campbell said he hopes bikers will “acquire some common sense” and stop taking such senseless risks.

“That’s an extremely crazy thing to do, and he’s endangering himself and everybody else on the roadway by acting that crazy,” Campbell said. “It’s suicidal. If he comes upon an animal in the roadway like a dog or a skunk — or even if he hits a pebble in the road the wrong way, he’s dead.

“If you want to go that fast there are plenty of racetracks to do it legally. There’s a number of people on our roadways now that need to check into that and stop putting innocent people at risk.”

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