By MICAH HENRY
A convoy of motorists, ignoring traffic laws by blocking intersections, spinning in circles, shooting off fireworks, and racing up and down Alexander County roads, converged into this quiet rural area on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, according to law enforcement officers.
Alexander County Sheriff Chad Pennell noted that the group of motorists blocked the intersection at Rink Dam Road and NC 127 in Bethlehem on Saturday night. Upwards of 100 vehicles were involved.
A video posted Saturday night about 10 p.m. by an innocent patron at The Vault restaurant in Bethlehem documented some of the mischief. Many people got out of their cars and watched from the road shoulder while some drivers spun in circles in the intersection and drove carelessly. Fireworks were shot off from the Bethlehem Shopping Center parking lot. There were reports which sounded like gunfire, but officers were unable to find evidence of shots fired.
Sheriff Pennell noted that officers from multiple agencies responded to the intersection.
One officer attempted to pull over a vehicle which was spinning in circles in the intersection. Ignoring the officers’ blue lights and siren, the motorist drove up and down the road and, with one very abrupt turn, crashed into K-9 Officer Jake Barnes’ patrol vehicle, causing front end damage. Officer Barnes was not hurt.
Another officer began to follow the suspect car that hit Barnes’ vehicle, and a chase ensued. Officers followed the car into an adjoining county, but called off the chase when it became very dangerous, as the suspect had turned off all the car’s lights.
Meanwhile, the group of suspect motorists and onlookers at NC 127 and Rink Dam drove to NC 64 and headed east into Taylorsville, coming to the Westgate Shopping Center, with more vehicles spinning in circles.
Pennell said he was in the middle of the large group while trying to pursue its leaders. At the point the group passed Sipe Lumber Company on US 64 West, Pennell said he saw taillights all the way from there to the NC 90- US 64 intersection.
The sheriff said he had never witnessed anything similar to this group before in Alexander.
At the Westgate Shopping Center, officers attempted to stop the vehicles by blocking parking lot exits.
Lt. Ethan Windsor of the Taylorsville Police Department indicated that one car fled from the scene, driving recklessly. Patrolman M.B. Woods of the Taylorsville force pursued the suspect vehicle, a black Toyota Corolla, which turned north on Liledoun Road, east on Main Avenue, attempted to pass another patrol car unsuccessfully, and then drove into trees at the Family Dollar store, where the suspect and a passenger were taken into custody.
The Corolla driver, Colin Alexander Lavin, W/M, age 23 of Cornelius, NC, was arrested at the scene. Officers found a Great Lakes/GL-15 rifle in Lavin’s car, along with marijuana and alcohol.
Lavin was charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Possession of Schedule VI Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Open Container, Contributing to the Delinquency Of a Minor, Careless and Reckless Driving, Driving Left of Center, and Failure to Heed Blue Lights and Siren.
Lavin’s passenger, a 17 year-old juvenile female, was held in the jail lobby until she was turned over to the custody of her parent or guardian.
Lt. Windsor noted that the group is rumored to be planning another “takeover” event this week on social media.
Sheriff Pennell said the entire convoy lasted only about 30 to 45 minutes in Alexander County. He questioned motorists in the group who came from Maiden, Concord, and even from as far away as South Carolina, although no arrests have been made yet.
After reviewing many security camera pictures, investigators believe the car which hit Officer Barnes’ vehicle is actually an Infinity G35 or G37 Coupe, black with a white bumper. It remains at large, said Pennell.
The investigation is ongoing.
“They just created a bunch of havoc,” said Pennell. “I thank the good Lord that there were no ambulances or emergency calls on 127 or US 64 then — they wouldn’t have been able to get through.”