Long arm of law catches suspect

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2002

After more than two years of the lam, Laron Gerome Lankford is waking up behind bars this morning.

Lankford, 25, of the 500 block of Kilby Avenue, has eluded capture since April 2000, when he led police on a high-speed chase and caused an accident that permanently disabled a former Suffolk police officer.

The fugitive, arrested in an apartment at 729 E. 29th St., Norfolk around 8:15 a.m. Friday, is being held without bond in Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

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Lankford has been on the run since April 16, 2000, when Officer Shane Everett stopped him driving a stolen car on U.S. Route 10, outside Chuckatuck. As Everett was calling in additional officers, Lankford sped away, starting a pursuit that gave way to a foot chase after Lankford crashed the car in Surry County. But long before that, just a mile

into Isle of Wight County, Everett’s police cruiser hydroplaned on the rain-slickened roads, flipping several times before stopping in a field.

Earlier this month, after receiving a tip that Lankford was staying in the Norfolk apartment building, Suffolk authorities set up surveillance on the apartment. Police from Norfolk and Suffolk got a search warrant and arrested Lankford inside one of the apartments, Simpkins said.

On Friday, Suffolk authorities charged Lankford with grand larceny auto theft, receiving stolen properties, reckless driving, driving while license suspended, altered license, altered license plates, obscured license plates, false report to police, and felony eluding police.

Lankford was also wanted in Norfolk for capias probation violation, Simpkins said.

Everett, now 28, suffered multiple injuries in the accident. He fractured his back in two places and broke both legs, several ribs and his left wrist. After spending two weeks in the hospital, four months in bed at home and six months learning to walk again, Everett finally returned to work last year where he was restricted to administrative duty.

He was approved for retirement on permanent disability in November 2001, around the same time he went out of work for his fourth surgery.

Today, Everett is completing coursework to earn his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Old Dominion University. After he graduates this December, he expects to pursue some sort of teaching career in law enforcement.

Already, he occasionally speaks to classes in police academies in Hampton Roads and parts of North Carolina. He wants students going into law enforcement to see the video of the accident and to realize that the risks of the profession can be painfully real.

&uot;This experience has taught me of the reality of the dangers of police work. That’s one reason I go to academies,&uot; he said. &uot;You assume a lot of risks when you are sworn in as a police officer.&uot;

Everett says he never doubted that Lankford would be apprehended. He is calm, saying he expects his day in court will be just like any other time he has testified in court during his five years as a police officer.

&uot;I’m not really excited about it,&uot; Everett said. &uot;I think everybody else is more excited than me.

&uot;I knew this day would come,&uot; he continued. &uot;What goes around comes around.

&uot;…You can either dwell on it or take what you’ve got and get on with life,&uot; Everett said. &uot;That’s what I’ve done.&uot;