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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2007
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Decatur police attend the driver of a car involved in a high-speed chase that ended when the car hit a wall of the Decatur Daily building early Saturday morning. The man was critically injured.
Daily photo by Michael Wetzel
Decatur police attend the driver of a car involved in a high-speed chase that ended when the car hit a wall of the Decatur Daily building early Saturday morning. The man was critically injured.

High-speed downtown chase ends at brick wall; driver critically hurt
Car runs out of road, hits Daily building

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com 340-2355

A high-speed police chase came to an end when a driver crashed his car into the Decatur Daily building early Saturday.

The driver, Gilbert Lee Watts, 48, of Trinity, suffered critical injuries, said Decatur police.

Watts failed to stop when officers caught up to him at Sixth Avenue Southeast and Johnston Street shortly before 12:30 a.m., police said.

His car barreled west on Johnston Street, through a stop sign, across First Avenue and into the north parking lot of The Daily.

Daily employees who were outside the building at the time said the vehicle scraped the pavement, sending sparks everywhere as it struck a hump at the entrance to the parking lot and went airborne. Then there was a loud crash.

The car slammed head-on into an east-facing brick-and-concrete wall at the back of the parking lot, partially ejecting Watts through the windshield. Police said he was not wearing a seat belt.

Police said they had been following Watts since they saw him driving at a high speed with no headlights at Sixth Avenue Southeast and Fairway Drive. Police were on the wreck scene immediately. Decatur Fire and Rescue and Decatur EMS arrived moments later.

Watts appeared to speak to officers and emergency personnel as they pulled him from the vehicle and stabilized him.

An ambulance transported him to Decatur General Hospital. He was transferred to Huntsville Hospital, where he remained in critical condition in the surgical intensive care unit Saturday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Police said they believed alcohol was a factor, but the wreck remains under investigation.

The crash bowed in the concrete-block, brick-faced wall on the warehouse portion of the Daily building, shattering some of the cement blocks inside and crumbling outside bricks. A damage estimate is pending.

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