CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The following is a first-person account by NBC Charlotte's Ben Thompson, who found himself in the middle of a police chase Tuesday, March 4.

I find myself in the backseat of cop cars frequently. No, I don't have criminal proclivities. It's part of my job. But Tuesday presented this reporter with an up-close experience in a cop car few people, even journalists, get to see.

First, the quick back story -- local law enforcement agencies are often happy to show reporters what it's like to patrol a neighborhood, catch speeders or go along on a sting. And in return, riding in a patrol car gives us great insight into aspects of a particular story.

That was the case Tuesday when my photographer Ken Shermer and I joined North Carolina Highway Patrol as they cracked down on speeders along I-77 north of uptown Charlotte. The story shoot went as expected. We rode along with Trooper Brandon Jolly as he ticketed a few speed demons. We were getting video of one final citation stop near I-485 in north Charlotte, when Jolly received a radio transmission for backup.

I was confused.


They're chasing somebody, he explained calmly.

Within seconds we were blasting down I-77 south, darting across the lanes of traffic. I looked nervously at the speedometer; it read 115 mph. I never looked at it again. I quietly but quickly grabbed my seat belt to buckle it.

The exhilaration was overwhelming. The engine was revving so loudly I couldn't hear the police radio anymore. Outside my rear passenger window, cars were swerving out of our way. Like a good photographer, Ken, in the front passenger seat, was rolling on the images blurring past our windows (he also had a GoPro camera mounted on the front windshield).

I am in the middle of a police chase! What do I do? Do I tweet? Or should I wait? Do I call my bosses? Do I take photos, too? Then my reporting instincts kicked in, and after sitting quiet for a few minutes as I absorbed the stimuli around me, I started asking questions about who and what we were chasing.

He's got the car stopped. The guy won't get out of the car, Trooper Jolly said.

Still, the engine roar was too loud for me to hear Jolly's responses. I knew within a few moments, my curiosity would be satisfied.

After approximately 10 minutes, we arrived at the scene.

Y'all stay in here, said Trooper Jolly, as he slammed the car door.

The suspect had just stepped out of his car. His hands were in the air, as he slowly walked backwards toward police. They cuffed him.

Turns out, all this drama stemmed from a simple seatbelt check. Trooper C.D. Montgomery said he spotted the man driving without a seatbelt along I-277 and tried to get him to pull over. When he wouldn't, Montgomery called for backup. That's when Trooper Jolly and others responded.

The suspect explained he couldn't find a place to pull over, but Montgomery said most of I-277 has 12 ft. shoulders, allowing plenty of space. Either way, the chase ended quickly and peacefully.

For once, the crime and its conclusion, far more mundane than my journey to it.

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