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Accident Reconstruction Closes Beltway Lanes

Delays are expected on the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County as investigators reconstruct a series of collisions Wednesday night that resulted in the deaths of two people and injuries to 15 others.

According to Maptuit, two right lanes of the inner loop are closed near Ritchie Marlboro Road in Forestville. Traffic begins to slow at Route 214. The investigation also blocks the ramp from Ritchie Marlboro Road to the inner loop.

Two left lanes of the inner loop will be closed later today when investigators are finished on the right side of the highway.

UPDATE: Maptuit reports that the investigation was complete and lanes were reopening at 11:22 a.m.

By Kyle Balluck  |  May 31, 2007; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Congestion  
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I hate to say, but this is exactly why the police should not chase motorcycles, especially during rush hour! Of course the driver of the motorcycle initiated the events by driving fast (whether the officer knew because of intuition or some speed capturing device is of course unknown), but I am going to go out there and say I think the officer shares some of the blame in this case from the coverage thus far. There was no need to case a motorcycle during rush hour. As a result two lives were lost and many were injured. It has been my observation that when motorcycles are speeding excessively that the police call for backup ahead and do not pursue, because it really is futile to try and catch these +200mph capable bikes. I believe the tragic events that occurred yesterday prove that point.

Posted by: Sivad | May 31, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I absolutely agree with the above comment. Why endanger others to chase a bike that is too fast too catch. Especially for a speeding violation. If the motorcycle had a murderer on the run or something similar I can understand. If the police just want to do a traffic stop it is not worth it.

Posted by: Darknesses | May 31, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

That's a terrible idea. If that jerk on the motorcycle hadn't run, we wouldn't even be talking about this! How can you blame anyone but him? Your suggestion blatantly promotes criminals going out and committing criminal acts and then speeding away on motorcycles. Do you seriously think providing such an obvious loophole is a good idea?

What we SHOULD do is add 2 murder charges and 15 assault charges to the driver's future court date.

That would DISCOURAGE people from running from the police in the first place, theoretically reducing the number of tragedies such as this one.

Posted by: WHAT?! | May 31, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I can see both sides of the previous posts.

We can't just let the criminals hop on a bike and speed away. We also can't chase a bike in a car - no way can you catch them.

What is the answer? Maybe the video on the car picked up the license plate. Then again, the pictures of the police car show the hood wrapped around the front windshield so a camera in the car may not show much. Could we go with multiple high-definition digital cameras on every cruiser? The cost would be a bit much, but the age old question of "how much is a human life worth to you?" would be a good answer to anybody who complains about cost.

The technology exists right now to enable the police to identify the vehicle used to commit the crime, but we don't have it deployed for use yet.

Even if we did, how do we know the bike was not stolen? Or borrowed? Was the owner actually on the bike?

The bottom line:

Police make split second decisions every day to protect the public. This looks like the wrong decision was made based upon the outcome.

But I, for one, am not going to crucify the officer because of the decision he made.

I have a feeling he will be doing that himself.

Posted by: SoMD | May 31, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Higher penalties? Sure, try it. I just don't expect that higher penalties will discourage people from trying to get away.

As for the police, our choice seems to be to allow chases within a framework of rules that minimize the risk to innocent bystanders. Perhaps we need some special rules regarding pursuit of suspects on motorcycles.

The extreme responses (shooting fleeing suspects or eliminating all pursuits) aren't satisfactory in my mind.

I hope that the investigation leads to better rules and training for pursuits. Unfortunately, even if the police do everything "right," sometimes the bad guy gets away and sometimes innocent people are killed.

Posted by: Josey | May 31, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

In response to "WHAT?!" I thought I worded my response in a way not to condemn the hard working officer involved in this incident. My point was that I felt it was inappropriate to chase a motorcycle during rush hour on the beltway. The risk was way too high to chase someone for the traffic violation of speeding and again we see the result. I never said that it was okay for the the cyclist to speed, but given my limited knowledge of the events it seems the crime did not warrant the response given the conditions. Obviously the cyclist is at fault, but I can't say that the officer is completely out of it either. I do feel something needs to change since there are many more motorcycles out there now. I am sure California already has something in place, perhaps we should emulate it here.

Posted by: Sivad | May 31, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Obviously the guy shouldn't have been speeding on the bike, I don't dispute that -- but it seems to me it was the cop who rear-ended the first car that started the major issue; last time I checked a cop car wasn't able to get into as tiny a space as a motorbike and it shouldn't try to.

I thought cops were trained better than to endanger lives in the interest of catching one speeder, and further were trained to drive at such high speeds in a relatively safe manner? Frankly, I think on this one the cop was reckless...both have blame, but it was the cop's choice to go after the motorcycle (anyone know if the cycle actually ran into anything? No one is mentioning if this is the case...).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 31, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

One of the benefits of Giuliani's crackdown on "nuisance" crimes in NYC was that the guys who were jumping subway turnstiles or squeegeeing cars also tended to have other, often more serious warrants out. So if you're willing to drive a motorcycle 90+mph on the Beltway during rush hour... maybe there's another reason he didn't pull over.

Posted by: Rudy | May 31, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

One of the benefits of Giuliani's crackdown on "nuisance" crimes in NYC was that the guys who were jumping subway turnstiles or squeegeeing cars also tended to have other, often more serious warrants out. So if you're willing to drive a motorcycle 90+mph on the Beltway during rush hour... maybe there's another reason he didn't pull over.

Posted by: Rudy | May 31, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

This situation is similar to a cop chasing and shooting a shoplifting suspect during lunch hour in downtown DC.

People died when the officer nailed them with his vehicle and sent them flying into oncoming traffic. What a terrible way to die.

Posted by: Le | May 31, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

After watching more video of the accident scene I noticed another issue that should be addressed:

Those sheet metal guard rails - test after test has shown that they tend to launch high profile vehicles instead of keeping them on the road. Replace those things with the concrete "Jersey Barriers" and there is a good probability the SUV would not have left the outer loop.

Posted by: SoMD | June 1, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I agree that you can not allow speeders to speed "as they wish". However, has anyone noticed that police speed also, when they don't have their flashers or sirens on. Are they above the law? No! Even when they turn their flashers and sirens on, that does not give them an open ticket to be wreckless. When they are in pursuit, their number one priority should be public safety, even if that means to stop a high-speed pursuit. It seems to me that it would have been more reasonable for the police to radio to other units ahead, as well as a police helicopter to monitor that moron on the motorcylcle. The bottom line is that lots of motorcyclists don't respect the law or public safety, so if they dash in and out of traffic, then they run the risk of getting hit. I suggest that you approach those types as you would if a wild animal ran into the street: (1) Don't slam on your brakes, (2) slow down gradually to avoid an accident from the rear, (3) if you hit the motorcyclist when he dashes in front of you, then call 911 so they can scrape the cyclist off the pavement.

Posted by: CmnSense | June 1, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

What happened to "TO PROTECT AND SERVE " ?
Following to close to prevent an accident?

I have heard a new law was past recently that the police can run a biker down. Would you stop if you had someone that will run you over ? How far does it have to go before the innocent get hurt or killed . If the bike wrecked there would have been one life ; with a police chase it is more and innocent people that have not even been a part in the chase got killed.
I am sure the bikers are aware of the dangers and let them face their own music don't hurt the innocent .

Posted by: both to blame | June 2, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

If the police office would have called in for a helicopter instead of persuing a high speed chase, maybe all of this could have been avoided. The suspect would have more than likely been apprehended. I think it would have been very hard to lose the helicopter. The officer should have just stayed at a safe distance just to keep the motorcycle in his vision. I think its ridiculous to chase whether its a car or bike, unless the criminal has committed a serious offense as stated.

Posted by: Why? | June 7, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

''Giuliani's crackdown on "nuisance" crimes''? Great, let's be like NYC, that will improve things...
Innocent til proven guilty. And in America, a cop never, never proves guilt, just like the military is run by civilians.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Have the results of the PG County Police investigation been released? Did the officer who was in pursuit get the required approval before the high speed chase?

Posted by: NoVa | June 15, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

There was no bike it's a coverup. No Witnesses not one seeing a bike. It was called black because that makes it more evil for the coverup. If there was a bike it would have been all over the news of the dashcam video but nope no video not even a still frame. They are hoping we all forget about this story. They even deny confirming there was a chase they just say it's part of the investigation. They open a toll free number for people to call who saw the bike. Hmmm it's the beltway major traffic and not one call not one witness.

Posted by: streeter | June 27, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Beltway Chase Wasn't Called In, Sources Say
Pr. George's Officer Pursuing Motorcyclist Is Said to Have Contacted Dispatchers Only After Fatal Crash
By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007; B01

The police chase that led to a fatal multi-vehicle crash last month on the Capital Beltway in Prince George's County was not called in to dispatchers, in apparent violation of department policy on high-speed pursuits, several law enforcement sources said.

Sources familiar with the inquiry into the May 30 accident that killed two men and injured 15 people said that a camera in the police cruiser recorded speeds of more than 120 mph as Officer Scott Campbell drove briefly onto the shoulder and back onto the highway in pursuit of a motorcyclist.
The chase began about 7 p.m. when Campbell, on routine patrol, saw the motorcyclist weaving through rush-hour traffic on the outer loop near the Ritchie Marlboro Road exit, the sources said.

Officers said Campbell's cruiser slammed into a sport-utility vehicle after the motorcycle cut in front of the SUV. The collision sent the SUV over a guardrail and into traffic on the inner loop, triggering a chain-reaction crash that involved five other cars. The motorcyclist sped off.

The sources, who requested anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing, said Campbell, a well-regarded officer with more than five years on the force, did not call in the pursuit and radioed dispatchers only after the accident.
Campbell could not be reached yesterday.

The sources said Campbell has been distraught since the crash. If investigators determine that he was at fault, he could face severe internal disciplinary action or even prosecution, the sources said.

According to a recent copy of the Prince George's police department vehicle pursuit policy obtained by The Washington Post, officers can take part in pursuits in the county only if there is probable cause that the suspect was involved in the use or threat of physical force or was involved in a hit-and-run accident that resulted in death or serious injury. An officer who engages in a chase is required to radio a dispatcher, who must immediately notify a supervisor, the policy says.

The officer is also required to provide the dispatcher with the location, speed and progress of the pursuit. The policy says that an officer's primary concern should be the preservation of life and that capturing or identifying a suspect is secondary to safety.

Prince George's police spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said the investigation is ongoing and declined to discuss the accident or the officer's involvement. She said Prince George's Police Chief Melvin C. High has said that the inquiry into the crash is "continuing consistent with our process."

In response to questions yesterday about the police department's policy on pursuits, Lt. April Delabrer declined to comment. Requests for comments about the search for the motorcyclist were also declined.

On the night of the accident, police told reporters that an officer had pursued a speeding motorcyclist, but they backed off any characterization of the incident the next day. A June 1 police news release said the cruiser was "following a speeding motorcycle."

Percy Alston, president of the Prince George's police union, said that he did not know details about the accident but that judgments about Campbell's role should be reserved until the investigation is complete. "He's a good, conscientious police officer. He's a military veteran. He has a good career here in Prince George's County," Alston said. "Of course, he's troubled by being involved in an incident that resulted in the death of people and serious injuries. He's making his way through that, and it's difficult."

Killed in the accident were Kevin McCarter, 49, of Fort Washington, and his friend Sidney Clanton Jr., 55, of Buffalo. The injured included an off-duty police officer. McCarter and Clanton were on the way to an Al Jarreau concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion when the accident occurred. An avid jazz fan, McCarter frequently went to the outdoor venue with his wife, LaTalia, and friends for concerts, said Jake Hubbard, McCarter's friend and a former co-worker.

At a memorial for McCarter about three weeks ago at a Prince George's church, the pews were packed with mourners who paid respects to the man nicknamed "the Dealmaker." McCarter, a loan officer and one-time salesman at Ourisman Ford Lincoln Mercury of Alexandria, always went out of his way for customers and friends, Hubbard said. "Kevin was an exceptional guy. You just don't meet people like him that often," Hubbard said. Phone calls to LaTalia McCarter and for Clanton's wife in Buffalo were not returned.

Vernita Camp, Clanton's longtime business associate at the Buffalo real estate firm that Clanton headed, said family and friends have been "numb" since the crash. Clanton, who had three sons, had traveled to Maryland to celebrate his birthday with McCarter, a childhood friend. "We haven't even had a chance to grieve," Camp said. "But we would be remiss if we didn't say our hearts go out to the other 15 people who were injured."

Posted by: streeter | June 27, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

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