Three shoplifting suspects hit a Mount Pleasant police officer who tried to stop them and led officers on a 20-mile chase before crashing into a garage in North Charleston today, police said.

The three women are in custody, but their names will not be released today while police consider possible charges and other leads, Mount Pleasant Police Maj. Stan Gragg said.

A Mount Pleasant police officer who was investigating reports of thefts at several stores in the Towne Centre shopping center spotted three women matching the description of the suspects about 2:15 p.m. and tried to stop them.

The women knocked the officer over as they sped away in a silver car, police said.

Edward Spear, 68, of Mount Pleasant, a pretzel vendor at Town Centre, said the police officer, who typically patrols that area, had sat the three shoplifting suspects on a bench outside of Banana Republic when they started to run off.

One of the women jumped into the driver’s seat of a car and the officer chased her, Spear said. The officer wrestled with the suspect, who then put the car in reverse, he said. He saw the two other suspects jump into the car and the driver went into reverse much faster, which flung the cop back, Spear said. “She came very close to getting run over,” he said.

Local merchants treated the injured officer, including putting ice on her injuries.

The officer was transported to Medical University Hospital in stable condition.

A witness who works at the Gap Store in Town Centre said she had heard that three females were shoplifting from various stores at the shopping center and knocked over an officer as they tried to get away. The manager said the three suspects, women in their 20s, were seen throughout the shopping center today.

“From what I heard they had tons of stuff,” she said.

“An officer tried to stop them and they ran,” said the manager, who identified herself as Tiffany.

Victoria’s Secret was among the stores reportedly targeted by the shoplifters, according to radio traffic.

The fleeing car got on I-526, exited on Dorchester Road and hit a car. The car continued to Montague Avenue and crashed on Morningside Drive near East Montague and Rivers Avenue.

More than 20 squad cars from several agencies joined the chase. North Charleston officers joined the pursuit when it entered the city limits on Interstate 526, North Charleston Police spokesman Spencer Pryor said.

Allen Benware, 25, lives in the house where the car ended up against the garage. It’s off the loop from East Montague Avenue onto Rivers Avenue.

Benware was in his yard digging a hole near the garage about 2:30 p.m. when he was startled by the sound of sirens and what sounded like the rim of a flat tire screeching against the pavement.

A silver Malibu came careening around the loop off East Montague, appeared to lose traction, and smashed through a chain link fence around the yard. Benware jumped out of the way as the car crashed into his garage.

Officers from the Highway Patrol, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office pulled up.

Two women jumped out of the car but quickly stopped when officers challenged them. The other woman stayed in the car, Benware said.

“I’m glad that they didn’t have to draw their guns on the girls, because I would have been in the middle,” Benware said after the car was towed away.

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