The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

How to End Your Criminal Career

Posted on | December 7, 2020 | 1 Comment

When did Lakita Annette Davis begin her criminal career? We don’t know, although we do know that she was already familiar to police in Tennessee when she was arrested in Madison County in March 2016 for a string of thefts of fingernail polish from stores in Jackson, Tenn. This arrest did not end Davis’s criminal career, however, as she was jailed in Shelby County, Tenn., six months later on similar charges. Two years later, Davis was imprisoned in Jackson, Mississippi.

When was Davis released from prison? Again, we don’t know, but in October of this year she was in Jonesboro, Arkansas, evidently engaged in her accustomed modus operandi. Along with three accomplices — two of them teenagers — Davis was shoplifting at the Dollar General store. An employee called 911 and the suspects fled the scene with Davis behind the wheel of a silver 2018 Honda Civic. From the moment she drove away, the rest of her criminal life was measured in mere minutes.

Let me interrupt this narrative to tell you about the 1985 Supreme Court decision in Tennessee v. Garner. In 1974, two Memphis police officers responded to a burglary call, and the suspect, Edward Garner, was shot to death while attempting to flee. Garner was unarmed, but Memphis police department’s policy authorized officers to shoot a fleeing suspect, consistent with a Tennessee state law which provided that “if, after notice of the intention to arrest the defendant, he either flee or forcibly resist, the officer may use all the necessary means to effect the arrest.”

Laws differed from state to state, and department policies varied between jurisdictions, but in general prior to the Tennessee v. Garner decision, a suspect fleeing arrest was at risk of getting shot by cops. Obviously, this was a powerful incentive for suspects not to flee. But in a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court claimed to locate a “right” to flee from police in the Fourth Amendment. Dissenting from the majority’s opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, joined by Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justice William Rehnquist, declared: “I cannot accept the majority’s creation of a constitutional right to flight for burglary suspects seeking to avoid capture at the scene of the crime.” Justice O’Connor noted that police must often make split-second decisions regarding use of force, and also noted that burglary is not a trivial crime, as it is not uncommon for burglars to assault, rape or murder residents of homes.

Nevertheless, Tennessee v. Garner became law of the land, and the “right to flee” has created dangers that were unimaginable prior to 1985. Whenever you see helicopter TV coverage of one of those endless police pursuits in Los Angeles, you are witnessing an unintended consequence of the Supreme Court’s folly in Tennessee v. Garner. If the fleeing criminals know the cops can’t shoot them, why stop for the blue lights?

Well, Lakita Davis didn’t intend to stop, but fate had other plans.

Davis and her accomplices had stolen only $30 worth of stuff from Dollar General, but the store employee who called 911 told the dispatcher it was a “robbery,” when it was actually just shoplifting. The word “robbery” implies the use or threat of force, usually with a weapon, and so this 911 call set in motion a fatal chain of events.

Probably because of her prior criminal record, Davis was desperate to escape. Getting caught even on a misdemeanor shoplifting charge would be a violation of her parole or probation, likely meaning a return to prison. Also, she had a .45-caliber Glock in the car, which would almost certainly be a felony for a convict like Davis. Jonesboro police soon spotted Davis’s car, and she took off at high speed. The confusion caused by the store employee’s 911 call meant that the cops thought they were chasing a dangerous robber, not someone who had shoplifted $30 worth of stuff. That’s where an Arkansas state trooper enters the story.

Trooper Tanner Middlecoff was at the Arkansas State Police barracks when he “overheard radio traffic from Jonesboro PD in reference to a robbery in progress at the Dollar General on Southwest Drive. Due to the close proximity of the call, I responded for assistance.”

Trooper Middlecoff was soon part of the pursuit, behind Jonesboro officers, as the fleeing Honda careened recklessly through traffic, running red lights, etc. “I turned south onto I-555 and advised Jonesboro dispatch to have officers allow me through so that I could perform a PIT on the vehicle to end the pursuit. I was then able to take lead in the pursuit as we were nearing the end of the construction area at mile marker 40.”

Only seven minutes elapsed from the time Trooper Middlecoff left state police headquarters until the time he hit Davis with the PIT maneuver.

If you are not an aficionado of police-chase videos, let me explain that the PIT maneuver (Precision Intervention Technique) involves a police vehicle striking the suspect vehicle on the rear side in such a way as to cause the vehicle to spin out of control. Performing a PIT correctly requires a lot of training and, as a matter of policy, most law-enforcement agencies only allow the PIT to be used at speeds under 45 mph.

Arkansas State Police, however, allow the PIT at any speed.

This no-limit PIT policy can be dangerous. In April, a guy named Justin Battenfield led police on a 20-mile chase before the Arkansas State Police supervisor authorized a PIT maneuver. Trooper Michael Shawn Ellis hit Battenfield’s truck while running 109 mph. Video of the resulting crash looks like a scene from a James Bond movie.


Trooper Ellis miraculously survived that crash. Battenfield died.

Here’s the thing about a high-speed chase — the fleeing suspect is a threat to public safety. Innocent people’s lives are at risk. Using the PIT maneuver to stop the pursuit is therefore justified, in defense of innocent lives. And the officer performing the PIT maneuver is also risking his own life, particularly in a high-speed PIT.

So, guess how fast Lakita Davis was driving when Trooper Tanner Middlecoff hit her with the PIT maneuver? Answer: 126 mph.


Davis’s Honda flew some 250 feet off the road, flipped over and smashed into a tree. The Honda Civic is a very safe car, and somehow Davis’s three passengers survived. Alas, it was the end of the road for Lakita Davis, who died like she lived — committing felonies.



One Response to “How to End Your Criminal Career”

  1. FMJRA 2.0: Igneous : The Other McCain
    December 12th, 2020 @ 11:35 pm

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