New York, NY (WLTX) - The deputy involved in that dramatic situation in Columbia last weekend that was captured by live TV cameras spoke in length for the first time about what happened that night.
Richland County Deputy Chris Mastrianni was an in-studio guest on the A&E program "Live PD," which follows officers from the sheriff's department on patrol on Friday and Saturday nights. He was joined by Sgt. Kevin Lawrence, another officer with the department who responded to the scene that night as well.
Host Dan Abrams asked Mastrianni about last Saturday, when a suspect Mastrianni was pursuing crashed his vehicle, then got out of the van while holding his two-year-old daughter. The suspect then struggled with Mastrianni for a few seconds before eventually setting the child down. Mastrianni was able to wrestle the man to the ground before backup came and helped him finish taking the suspect into custody.
"It felt like forever to me," Mastrianni said of the experience. "Seeing [Master Deputy Mark] Laureano run up was probably one of the best feelings in the world, because I knew if this goes on any longer it could get worse."
Abrams called the incident "disturbing," and while the program did show parts of what the cameras recorded that night, they did not re-air the portion where the suspect was holding the baby.
The incident call began as a fight at a house, then escalated into a shots fired call. When officers got there, however, they say 22-year-old Bryan Martin drove away from the scene.
"He's running for a reason," Mastrianni said. "Nobody runs for no reason."
They began to chase him, in a pursuit where deputies say the suspect's car drove over 90 miles an hour. The car then flipped a few minutes later.
"Once we got to the point where they vehicle flipped over my goal is to keep the scene contained, make sure that I can get him in handcuffs as quick as possible," he said. "And everything changed obviously when the child came out."
At that point, Martin had the girl in one arm.
"Once I had one hand, I saw the other hand was still on the child," he said. "I used a pressure point just to get him off. And once I knew both hands were away from the baby, I made sure."
"I took him away from where the child was. So I basically lifted him up and pushed him away as far as I can and continued to try to apprehend him."
Mastrianni wasn't aware that one of the Live PD producers had gotten the girl and taken her to safety.
"I didn't know that," he said. 'That's why I was yelling 'help me' [at onlookers] because I didn't realize that the child was picked up. I knew they [other officers] were coming to me based on the chase and I didn't want her to be walking out in the middle of the street with them coming down trying to get to me based on the situation. And I don't want her to be in the middle of the street and may not see her and it becomes real tragic."
The former college wrestler then used his training to keep the man pinned on the ground. But he didn't see what viewers at home could: the suspect reaching into his pocket.
"I didn't know he was going into his pocket. Watching it later it was a little unnerving. But I was focused on where the child was, so I knew I had him in a position where he was wasn't really going to go anywhere I was trying to make sure the baby was going to be okay."
It turned out, according to investigators, that the man only had drugs, and not a weapon.
Despite the suspect not being that large, the struggle took a while, and didn't end until the other officers arrived.
"When the adrenaline's going, the size of the person really doesn't matter," Mastrianni.
As for Martin, he remains behind bars on a bond totaling $103,000. His daughter suffered a broken arm, deputies say.
Abrams clarified for viewers that the reason the Live PD videographer didn't help Mastrianni was because the cameraperson apparently wasn't able to see all the details while filming it.
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