Our sympathy goes out to the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office and the family and friends of Deputy Grant Whitaker who died in the early
hours of Sunday morning in a one car crash while in pursuit of a white SUV. The reason for the pursuit has not been released. The driver of the white SUV has not been apprehended.
This is the department’s 2nd car crash fatality. Sgt. Paul Cole was killed in 1996 when he attempted to avoid a herd of deer while responding to a domestic dispute.
I know the area where Deputy Whitaker was killed. I was a deputy for the Ingham County Sheriff in the mid-1970’s in my first police job. I’ve driven that very same road, probably in much the same way as Deputy Whitaker, doing the very same thing. In those days our cars were much less safe and I regret to tell you that I probably didn’t wear a seatbelt as frequently as I do now. We had to be ready to jump out and catch the bad guy quickly and a seat belt would hold us back, we told ourselves. I look back and think how crazy that thinking is. I suppose that it is only a matter of luck that I survived and he didn’t. I don’t know if he was wearing a seat belt but I do know that today’s vehicles are much safer than they were because of the safety systems in all cars – if you wear the belt and harness. For sure we didn’t know as much as we do now about car crashes back in those days. Now we know how many police die in traffic crashes across the country: of the 114 deaths year to date, 42 were killed in traffic related incidents; 46 were killed in firearms related incidents. We know that pursuit or emergency driving is one of the most dangerous activities a police officer can do.
Deputy Whitaker was 25 years old and had been on the department for about 18 months. Still a rookie in my book. The loss of his life is tragic as is the loss of any life in a traffic crash.