The incident started as a residential breaking and entering call where the suspect -- identified as 26-year-old Tyler Christopher Harding -- allegedly stole his first vehicle of the day, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. During the chase, the suspect stole three additional vehicles, including one he's accused of carjacking after a crash near the popular Ballantyne Hotel.
For nearly two hours, Harding drove erratically across Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and, for a brief period, crossed into South Carolina.
Aerial video of the chase showed the suspect weaving in and out of traffic, driving over curbs and on sidewalks, and going the wrong way multiple times.
CMPD records show Harding is from Elgin, Texas.
Harding was booked early Thursday morning and charged with:
- Four counts of vehicle theft
- Three felony counts of larceny of a motor vehicle
- One misdemeanor count of vehicle larceny
- Second-degree burglary
- Two counts of felony hit-and-run
- Breaking and entering
- Possession of a stolen vehicle.
CMPD said he has felony arrest history from Texas and was new to the Charlotte area.
Harding's sister, Christa Brooke Harding, also of Elgin, Texas, was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle for her involvement in a portion of Wednesday's incidents. She appeared in court Thursday.
Tyler Harding made his first appearance in court Friday. A judge increased his total bond amount to $800,000. Harding is scheduled to return to court for a bond hearing on July 21 and a probable cause hearing on July 28.
RELATED WCNC CHARLOTTE INVESTIGATION: CMPD rush-hour pursuit leaves young mother dead, new father injured
Pursuit timeline: For nearly two hours, the chase went all over charlotte
Charlotte pursuit timeline
During Wednesday's chase, Harding went as far north as Sunset Road and Interstate 77 and as far south as South Carolina Highway 160 and U.S. 521 in Lancaster County. Within that 20-mile span, Harding circled back numerous times to travel along streets and neighborhoods he had previously driven.
After Harding allegedly stole his first car in west Charlotte, CMPD said they were able to track the stolen vehicle via GPS to a McDonald's restaurant drive-thru on Tryon Street in South Charlotte.
A short time later, Harding is then accused of stealing a second vehicle, a white pickup truck. Investigators believe this is when his sister, Christa Brooke Harding, got in the truck with him.
The two drove to the Walmart at the Whitehall Commons Shopping Center on South Tryon Street near Interstate 485. Tyler Harding is accused of abandoning the pickup truck and stealing a third vehicle after the truck was involved in a parking lot crash. Outside the Walmart, CMPD took his sister into custody and charged her for possession of the truck.
Tyler Harding continued driving that third vehicle until he eventually crashed it on Johnston Road outside the Ballantyne Hotel.
A photo provided to WCNC Charlotte shows witnesses checking on the driver of a white car, who was involved in the crash with Harding and his vehicle in Ballantyne.
Prior to that crash, despite three earlier car thefts and erratic driving, Jennings said CMPD officers were using helicopters to track the suspect without officers on the ground engaging with the suspect.
In a late-day briefing Wednesday, CMPD Police Chief Johnny Jennings said officers in marked police vehicles began actively pursuing Harding after the Ballantyne crash. This is where law enforcement believed Harding first could have carjacked a vehicle with an innocent person still inside.
After Harding crashed his fourth and final vehicle at the intersection of South Blvd. and East Blvd. in the South End neighborhood, he was taken into custody. Police searched the car and found no one else was in the vehicle.
"I will say that our policy was followed precisely," Jennings said in response to a question about why the driver went so long without being stopped. "Our goal is that nobody dies and everybody gets to go home and nobody has serious injuries. That's exactly what occurred today."
As Harding drove that fourth vehicle north from Ballantyne to South End, another man, who said he had grown tired of watching the chase on television, intervened by crashing his car into Harding's fleeing vehicle.
Verify: Man tries to stop chase with his own car. Can he be charged?
VERIFY: Could good Samaritans face charges for trying to help police?
"It was just my instinct to intervene," Abrahan Nassar, the driver of the pickup truck told WCNC Charlotte after the chase ended. CMPD had warned against civilians taking such actions, tweeting that people should not try to engage with the suspect.
On Thursday, CMPD said Nassar was cited for driving without a license.
WCNC Charlotte's Verify Team investigated whether someone can be criminally charged for intervening in a police pursuit.
The Verify question
Can a person face charges for intervening in a police pursuit?
The Verify sources
- Chris McCartan, McCartan Law in Concord, NC
- North Carolina law
The Verify answer
Yes, a person can face charges for intervening in a police pursuit.
What Verify found
North Carolina law details obstruction of justice, writing: "If any person shall willfully and unlawfully resist, delay, or obstruct a public officer in discharging or attempting to discharge an official duty, the person is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor."
McCartan said whether prosecutors actually pursue charges comes down to the situation.
"You want to encourage people to help do the right thing, but you've got to be smart about it," McCartan said. "In a lot of these situations, you'll see somebody engage in a high-speed chase, thinking that they're going to be able to help law enforcement officer, and meanwhile, the cops are like, 'I got this thing, if you get out of my way.'"
He also said a person's motives could weigh into the decision.
"There has to be some level of criminal intent if they're going to start charging people with a crime," McCartan said.
CMPD's pursuit policy: WCNC investigates the increase in the number of CMPD pursuits
WCNC investigations CMPD's pursuit policy
Coincidentally, WCNC Charlotte has spent months investigating the impact of police pursuits on innocent bystanders. On the eve of Wednesday's pursuit, WCNC Charlotte published "In Pursuit," which revealed the number of CMPD pursuits has more than quadrupled over the last decade.
Lt. Steve Fischbach said CMPD expects its officers to only pursue a driver for a crime that is dangerous to life. In fact, the department just recently revised its pursuit policy to limit police pursuits to only two circumstances: when they believe a driver or passenger has committed or is attempting to commit a crime dangerous to life or if officers believe there's a greater harm to the public if they're not stopped.
"Everyone involved in these pursuits has to ask themselves, 'Is the offense that the person committed or is wanted for or the harm that they pose to the public, is it worth the risk of the actual pursuit itself?" Fischbach said in an interview ahead of Tuesday's publication. "That's the balancing act. We're constantly having to balance the need for us to apprehend those dangerous people up against the inherent risk of a police pursuit."
The agency's updated pursuit policy is slightly more restrictive than the previous policy but still allows for officer discretion.
"Every case is different and again, that's where we have to rely on our officers and our supervisors in those specific pursuits to make the right decision," Lt. Fischbach said.
WCNC Charlotte's investigation identified two innocent bystanders killed in as many weeks at the beginning of 2022 as a consequence of CMPD pursuits. Both of those pursuits originated with traffic stops.
In one of the cases, officers tried to stop a man driving a Jeep with a covered, but still visible license plate. He eventually crashed into another car, killing Brittany Webb and severely injuring Aaron Norward.
There's a national push for police departments to be more restrained when it comes to pursuits. The organization Pursuit Safety only thinks police should give chase when there's a violent felony involved. Lt. Fischbach previously told WCNC Charlotte that CMPD is always open to feedback.
Note: WCNC instituted a new policy in March 2021 regarding the broadcast or posting of mugshots.
WCNC will only air or post a mugshot if the person has been formally charged with a crime and in a few other cases. The exceptions include: If it appears the person could be a danger to themselves or others or if they are wanted by authorities; to differentiate between people with a common name; if the photos could encourage more victims to come forward. The news-editorial leadership may also decide to use a mugshot based on the severity of the crime(s) committed and/or the level of public interest in the crime and ensuing criminal proceedings.
WCNC Charlotte is choosing to show the mugshots of the suspect in this case due to the high profile and public interest of the investigation.