Troopers’ cruisers disrupt Cleveland Christmas parade

December 6, 2018

A Christmas parade is supposed to be a time to celebrate the joy and goodwill of the season, but in the Johnston County community of Cleveland Tuesday night, the revelry was disrupted by state troopers looking for a hit-and-run suspect.

Mom Michelle Gillis said there was no warning before the cruisers came, traveling in the opposite direction from marching bands and floats. The parade route runs on Cleveland Road, N.C. Highway 1010. For about an hour on Tuesday, the usually busy thoroughfare was transformed.

“The kids were in the street trying to get the candy,” Gillis said.

She saw blue lights and heard some sirens, then “people were having to get their kid out of the road,” she said.

Three cruisers came from the direction of Smithfield, quickly slowing down as they drove against the flow of the parade, Gillis said.

First Sgt. Michael Baker of the State Highway Patrol says two of the cars were driven by troopers; the third was from another law enforcement agency. They were looking for a man wanted in a hit-and-run who was described as armed and dangerous, and saw Cleveland Road as the quickest route to get where they needed to go.

“The parade route is short – maybe a half-mile – and is roughly shaped as a triangle. The local fire department blocks off each of the three points to keep traffic from flowing through,” Gillis said.

Cleveland is an unincorporated community, so it has no police force to do traffic control. Tuesday marked only its second Christmas parade.

In a statement, Baker said, “Supervisory personnel are actively investigating this and will take such action as deemed necessary,” noting that public safety is always paramount.

Gillis says she believes trooper could have taken an alternate route.

“It was the perfect storm for the children to get killed, and it’s a miracle that they didn’t,” she said.

Despite the disruption, there was a happy ending. The troopers caught their suspect, and the community’s good cheer marched on.

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