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Police Chase Leads To Death Of Former Belmont Mayor

A police pursuit late Wednesday night in Belmont ended with a crash that killed two innocent victims, including the Gaston County town's former mayor. Kevin Loftin, 56, was among two people in a silver Audi that was rammed by a black Acura driven by a South Carolina man who was later arrested. Also killed was Loftin's friend, Donna Jean Deitz, 60. The crash happened about 10:15 p.m., three or four minutes after police began pursuing the Acura. Belmont police Chief Charlie Franklin said officers pursued the driver because he allegedly nearly ran over law enforcement officers moments earlier. Lester Saunders Norman Jr., 42, was arrested and is Gaston County Jail, awaiting charges to be filed. Police say the district attorney will make a decision on charges. According to police, Norman was driving without a license. WSOC-TV is reporting that Norman recently was released from prison in South Carolina. The series of events began shortly after 10 p.m., police say, at a DWI checkpoint. Authorities say a black Acura failed to stop at the checkpoint, and they say the driver nearly struck two officers while getting away. That started the police pursuit on Wilkinson Boulevard. Franklin told reporters that the driver of the Acura was traveling up to 75 mph during the brief pursuit. As the driver approached the intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard and Park Road, police say, he crashed a red light and sideswiped a PT Cruiser before slamming into the Audi. The force of the crash pushed Loftin's Audi into a telephone pole. Loftin died at the scene. Deitz was rushed to a hospital but died a short time. Police say Norman tried to escape, jumping from his vehicle and running. He was caught by police within minutes. A passenger in the Acura was questioned by police but released. Three people in the PT Cruiser suffered minor injuries. Loftin was mayor of Belmont from 1992 to 1997 and served in a number of business leadership roles. He was president of the town's chamber of commerce in 2001.