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Suspect identified in Wednesday's police pursuit

CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings told reporters the incident could have been worse if officers pursued the driver earlier.
CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings told reporters the incident could have been worse if officers pursued the driver earlier.

The driver who stole four vehicles Wednesday and stirred panic with erratic driving while trying to evade authorities as police and television station helicopters followed him has been identified as 26-year-old Tyler Christopher Harding.

Harding has been charged with four counts of vehicle theft, two counts of felony hit and run, possession of stolen vehicle, felony flee to elude, burglary and numerous traffic citations.

According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, Harding has a felony arrest history from Texas and was new to the Charlotte area. The second suspect and passenger identified in Wednesday's incident is 28-year-old Christa Brooke Harding. She is charged with possession of a stolen vehicle.

The incident started with a burglary call involving a stolen vehicle.

For much of the hours-long ordeal, officers did not closely pursue him in their cruisers. CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings says that’s because its policy is not to pursue vehicles unless there’s a danger to life.

"It is unusual for someone that when we back off and we are no longer right directly behind this individual, to continue driving in that fashion just showed his disregard for the safety of our public," Jennings told reporters.

WSOC-TV captured the driver jumping out of a truck that appeared to have blown a tire and stealing a woman’s vehicle in a Walmart parking lot, leaving behind a passenger in the truck.

No one died or was seriously hurt. Jennings said the situation could have been worse had the police reacted differently.

"There is no way to say that a pursuit would have stopped this type of driving. So it possibly could have been worse. We also knew we had the overhead sight with the helicopter," Jennings said.

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.