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Accounts differ on events leading up to fatal cycle crash

By Walter Geiger The girlfriend of a 33-year-old man killed in a motorcycle crash here Sept. 7 has accused an off duty Barnesville police officer with escalating the incident, panicking her boyfriend and causing his death. City police counter that the off duty officer, Terry Belvin, did only what any other driver would have done under the circumstances. Belvin has been on administrative leave since May 16 when his police cruiser hit and killed two pedestrians on Veterans Parkway. Ashley Smith claims Belvin followed Dennis Turner Jr. to their Towns Edge apartment claiming he had passed two cars on a yellow line. ’Dennis had just pulled up in our driveway in my car. A guy pulled up behind him in a big white truck. He was on his phone. He started screaming at Dennis ‘˜you’re going to jail’. The guy in the truck said he was an off duty cop. He had on shorts and a cap – nothing like a uniform. He never showed anyone a badge. He was a total jerk. He was freaking out. I watched the whole thing from our porch,’ Smith said. Turner went inside then went out the back door. He got on his Suzuki Cruiser and left without his helmet. He went south on Hwy. 41 and was killed when he ran off the road at a high rate of speed in a curve near former sheriff Joe Buice’s residence. Smith alleges Belvin panicked Turner. ’Dennis had severe anxiety. He panicked. He kept saying ‘˜I gotta get outta here’. He went out the back and got on his bike. He was the kindest person. He had the biggest heart. He would give you the shirt off his back but he was prone to panic attacks. He never saw a doctor because we never had insurance. He was pale as a ghost when that guy chased him into the house. He rides when he is upset to calm himself,’ Smith said. The law enforcement narrative is decidedly different. Chief Chuck Keadle said the 911 center got multiple calls about Turner’s car. The first came from near Hot Shot reporting he was driving at a dangerously high rate of speed. The second reported Turner passed two cars on a yellow line then jumped the railroad tracks on Atlanta Street, almost hitting a building. Belvin and his wife had been to Big Chic and were on Forsyth Street when the car blew by them at a high rate of speed near Collier Road, Keadle said. He called 911 and followed the car, turning into the apartment complex behind it. Keadle said Belvin called 911 again to report the car was at 207 Towns Edge and asked for an on duty officer. Keadle said Turner accosted Belvin in his vehicle and Belvin called 911 again. Belvin watched as Turner went in the house then came out the back and got on the bike without a helmet. Keadle said ‘He laid the bike down in the grass. Belvin thought he was drunk and called 911 again because he was worried he might get hurt,’ the chief added. At that point, officer Michael Ranier was pulling into the apartment complex when the Suzuki shot past, almost hitting the patrol car, according to the chief. ‘Ranier turned around and followed him but stopped at the MLK bypass. He asked dispatch to notify Monroe County because the bike was long gone,’ Keadle said. Turner rode just 1.1 miles from his home before the bike left the road at high speed. He died of massive head injuries at the scene. ’Officer Jesse Blackmon went out to the C&B store and turned around. He noticed the grass and dirt torn up on the south side of the highway. DNR ranger Keith Page showed up at about that time and the two of them went down in the ravine and found the bike and the body,’ Keadle said. Smith maintains, however, that Belvin escalated the incident. ’Dennis had had two or three beers but he was not drunk. He did nothing wrong. Belvin had no right to follow him home and get him all upset. He had no right to do what he did. He just kept on antagonizing Dennis. Dennis just thought some idiot in a truck followed him home. This shouldn’t have happened. He should be alive today,’ she said. Keadle disagreed. ‘He was not acting as a police officer. He was just doing what you or I would have done,’ the chief said. ‘It’s a good thing Belvin called 911 because it is all recorded. We also have video from the patrol car that arrived. He was definitely not wearing a helmet,’ BPD investigator Al Moltrum added. Smith does not contest that Turner left the helmet behind. ‘He was from Florida. They don’t have a helmet rule there. We constantly reminded him to put on his helmet,’ she said. Keadle and Moltrum fully expect the case to be litigated. Smith meanwhile is in mourning. Turner’s funeral will be held tomorrow in Bartow, Fla. ’I got my daughter and we went looking for Dennis. We got to the C&B Store and turned around. Then they blocked the road. I waited a long time before a trooper came out and told me Dennis didn’t make it. We were together 12 years. We have a young child. His skull was bashed in. It has to be a closed casket. We didn’t even get to take a last look at him. I want someone to be held accountable. I want Belvin to be held accountable,’ she concluded.

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