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Driver charged with DWI after Lawndale couple killed in Shelby car wreck

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

Two people killed by a drunken driver fleeing police Saturday in Shelby were identified as a Lawndale couple, police said Sunday. Their 12-year-old grandson was injured in the accident.

Shelby police said Dorman Pompey and Frances Pompey, both 55, were killed when their Ford Taurus was struck by a car in downtown Shelby that was crowded with visitors to an arts show, European car show and farmers market.

The Pompeys’ grandson was thrown from the car and is being treated at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, police said.

Police did not identify the grandchild and did not have any information on his condition. But on Sunday, family member Denise Whisnant identified the boy as Elijah Pompey, her sister’s grandson. She said he was in stable condition Sunday, an improvement from the day before.

“They took the tubes out of him,” she said. “He’s waking up, but he was heavily sedated. It’s going to take awhile.”

Police charged the driver of the other car, Demetrist Lendell Roberts, 34, of Shelby with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of felony death by vehicle, driving while impaired, felony speeding to elude arrest, driving while license revoked and speeding.

Authorities said that shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, Shelby police spotted a Buick LeSabre that appeared to be speeding near downtown. When Officer Blake Scott tried to stop the vehicle, the driver turned onto another street. Scott began pursuit, then stopped because of both vehicular and foot traffic.

The Buick ran a red light and T-boned the Ford’s passenger door, police said. Roberts fled on foot, Shelby police Chief Jeff Ledford said, but was caught and subdued by two out-of-town, off-duty police officers.

Ledford said that internal affairs would be reviewing the incident but at this time, “It appears that proper protocol was followed” during the pursuit.

Ledford said Scott has been with the department for nearly three years. He said Scott’s siren was on when he tried to stop the car and during the pursuit, but Scott switched the siren off once the supervisor called off the chase.

Ledford said that protocol on chases allows supervisors to determine when to end a pursuit. In Saturday’s case, as soon as Scott said he had the license tag number, the supervisor called it off.

It was a “very sad situation,” Ledford said. “Knowing the driver didn’t have a license and was impaired makes it even more senseless. Our hearts go out to the families involved.”

At the time of the accident, Whisnant said the Pompeys were driving their grandson to his father’s house. The 12-year-old planned to visit a carnival at a local park with his sister and father.

Debbie White, a Charlotte resident who was taking pictures at the auto show for an Austin-Healey Club newsletter on Saturday, said the crash sounded like “a sonic boom. It was a humongous noise.”

After the crash, witnesses descended on the scene, with at least three people identifying themselves as nurses tending to the boy, said Shelby resident Misty Prokop.

“Everyone was really helpful,” said Prokop, who was visiting the auto show. “Everyone just instinctively did what they could.”

On Sunday, Whisnant described Elijah Pompey’s relationship with his grandparents as “really close.”

“They like going out to eat and taking him to ballgames and just being with him,” she said.

Elijah Pompey attends Burns Middle School in Lawndale and loves playing football and basketball, she said. Lawndale is located about 55 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Lora Varga, the sixth-grade administrative assistant at Burns Middle School, said Elijah Pompey, who is known as “Shiheem” at school, “lights up the room. He’s very outgoing, very energetic. He has a lot going for him.”

Also on Sunday, Whisnant, 50, remembered her sister, Frances Pompey, and her brother-in-law as being “inseparable. You see one, you see the other.”

“They were good-hearted, family-oriented, loving people,” she said.

Frances Pompey loved planning events for the family, coordinating a cookout every year. In recent weeks, she’d been planning a celebration for her mother’s birthday in mid-May. “She was heading that up and getting everybody together,” Whisnant said.

Pompey worked at Cleveland Regional Medical Center in Shelby in the housekeeping and environmental services department, Whisnant said.

Dorman Pompey enjoyed helping people with handiwork such as fixing pipes that had burst and doing yard work, Whisnant said. She called the couple’s death “senseless.”

According to public records, Roberts has a lengthy criminal past dating to at least 2000, including convictions for carrying a concealed weapon, possessing stolen goods, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Roberts was being held at Cleveland County Detention Center without bond. Ledford said police will meet with the District Attorney’s office Monday to review the case to see whether additional charges will be filed.

Staff writer Helen Schwab contributed.

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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