Man was fleeing Garrard constable in fatal chase

March 07, 2004|JIM LOGAN

LANCASTER - The young man who died early Friday after crashing along Sugar Creek Road was fleeing a Garrard County constable, an elected official with the powers of a police officer.

Bruce Adams spotted a reckless driver in a Nissan Sentra late Thursday night, said Kentucky State Police, and gave chase with his emergency lights flashing.

Four miles down Sugar Creek Road the Nissan's driver, Joel E. Newcomb, 23, missed a curve, drove 100 feet off the road and slammed into a tree. Newcomb was airlifted to University of Kentucky Medical Center, where he died early Friday morning. His passenger, whom KSP has not identified, was taken to Fort Logan Hospital in Stanford. His or her condition is unknown.

Newcomb, who was from Nicholasville, had an extensive record of arrests, including three for driving under the influence dating to 1998. The latest came on Feb. 8, 2003, in Lancaster. At the time of his death he had an outstanding bench warrant for failing to complete a drug and alcohol education class.


Meanwhile, the constable position, which dates at least to the early 19th century in Kentucky, has slipped into relative obscurity.

In Garrard County there are five constables, one in each magistrate's district. They serve four-year terms. They are: Adams, Sam Kindred, Jack Trembo, Mark Abee and Bill Sebastian. The position is unpaid, and while constables can collect fees from the sheriff for serving warrants and subpoenas, none do, say officials.

According to the Kentucky Revised Statutes, "Constables may execute warrants, summons, attachments, notices, rules and orders of court in all criminal, penal and civil cases..."

They also have broad police powers, although they appear to be seldom used. Training for constables, similar to that required of police officers, is available. It is not known if Garrard County's constables have received training.

They are authorized to wear badges, firearms and use emergency lights and sirens on their vehicles. Garrard Fiscal Court paid for badges last year, said Judge-Executive E.J. Hasty, but declined to buy the constables flashing lights for their cars.

The level of activity varies from constable to constable, say county officials. Some take their positions seriously and patrol their districts regularly. Adams, said Lancaster Police Chief Ronnie Lamb, is "somewhat active as a constable."

Adams, in the first year of his second term, was unavailable for comment Saturday.

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