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Man leads police on chase that ends in death of former mayor

A Belmont police chase ended in a wreck that killed two innocent people Wednesday night, including the former mayor of Belmont.
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BELMONT, N.C. -- A Belmont police chase ended in a wreck that killed two innocent people Wednesday night, including the former mayor of Belmont.

The crash happened just after 10 p.m. at the intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard and Park Street.

Police say three vehicles were involved in the accident and two people were killed.

Police say 42-year-old Lester Saunders Norman was driving a 2001 black Acura SUV and tried to flee from a license checkpoint at exit 26 on Interstate 85 in Belmont. Police say he nearly hit two officers when he tried to get around the checkpoint.

Officers chased the SUV onto Interstate 85 north. The SUV got off at exit 27 and the pursuit continued down Park Street.

Police say Norman ran a red light at the intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard and Park Street and slammed into an Audi driven by Kevin Loftin, the former mayor of Belmont. The car spun out of control and crashed into a telephone pole.

Loftin and a passenger in the car, Donna Jean Deitz, died at the scene, according to police.

Loftin was Belmont s mayor from 1992 to 1997 and is credited with redeveloping downtown Belmont into what it is today, with shops, restaurants, red brick paths and regular events at Stowe Park.

Police say Norman got out of his SUV after the accident and ran from the scene. He was caught after police ran after him.

A 2006 PT Cruiser was also involved in the crash. Two people inside the car were taken to Gaston Memorial Hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Police say a passenger in Norman's SUV was also taken to the hospital.

The Belmont police chief says officers followed proper policy since a felony was committed when Norman allegedly attempted to hit two officers with his vehicle.

Loftin left politics but not community service, friends say.

If you wanted something done, you get Kevin on your side and you had half the battle won, said close friend David Robinson. Loftin was a member of East Belmont Baptist Church.

Never missed a Sunday, said nephew Tom Weathers.

Deitz, meanwhile, moved back to Belmont from Florida to take care of her aging parents including Clyde Deitz, a long time Belmont City Council member.

She was a regular at First United Methodist Church.

I ve only been here seven months, but I think I knew Donna in seven months better than I have some people in seven years, said Pastor Chuck Baker.

This is not Norman's first run-in with the law. He has faced various charges in Catawba, Gaston, Cleveland and Mecklenburg counties over the past several years, including a murder charge in 1991 that was later dismissed.

Other incidents range from child support, driving while license revoked, false imprisonment and a drug charge conviction in Mecklenburg County.

Police say Norman was driving without a license and he is due in a Gaston County courtroom on Friday. He is being held behind bars on a $1 million secured bond and is due in court on March 13.

Loftin and Deitz were headed back from a church service in Charlotte when they were hit and killed.

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