Baltimore County police officials have begun an investigation to determine whether an officer violated procedures in chasing a car several miles on West Baltimore streets early yesterday before it crashed, killing a 16-year-old passenger.
"We do have hot-pursuit authority," said E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman. "Ours is a judgment call. It depends on the time of day, traffic conditions, weather and knowledge of offense. All of these things must be considered."
Ordinarily, the county police "as a matter of policy" discontinue pursuits once they enter the city because of the congestion, Mr. Miller said.
The officer involved in yesterday's pursuit claims to have discontinued the chase -- westbound at that point -- at Winans Way, some three blocks short of the crash scene.
But a 47-year-old state Division of Corrections employee has told investigators that he saw a county police car pass him at Nottingham Road -- a block west of Winans -- in "hot pursuit" with emergency lights and siren.
A passenger in the fleeing car, Raymond C. Wilson, 16, of the 3200 block of Gulfport Drive, was killed when the vehicle struck a curb atEdmondson Avenue and Chapelgate Lane, went airborne and crashed into several trees, said Sgt. Paul M. Blair of the city Traffic Investigation Section.
Sergeant Blair said the 1989 Ford Escort, driven by Jason Michael Guy, who turned 18 years of age March 10, was split in half by the impact.
Mr. Guy, who lives in the 5000 block of Hillburn Avenue, was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center where he was treated and released.
The intersection at which the crash occurred is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the city, police said. They said there have been a number of fatalities there in recent years.
Police said Mr. Guy has been charged with automobile manslaughter. He was being held last night at the Central District lockup awaiting a bail hearing.
The incident remained under review by the police, in consultation with the state's attorney's offices in both jurisdictions, and other charges were possible, authorities said.
Mr. Miller said the chase began about 1:45 a.m. when Officer Steven M. Petersen, of the Woodlawn precinct, spotted two cars speeding at Windsor Mill Road and Featherbed Lane, a few blocks from the station house.
As one of the vehicles sped off, Officer Petersen, a six-year veteran, gave pursuit at speeds that began at 45 to 50 miles per hour and quickly increased to more than 60 mph, the spokesman said.
Mr. Miller said "about five minutes into the chase the supervisor asked him [Officer Petersen] what the traffic conditions were like and he said they were as you might expect for that time of the morning -- light."
The chase continued east on Windsor Mill Road into the city to Walbrook Junction, police said.
Police said it then continued onto Bloomingdale Road and south on Poplar Grove Street to the 2100 block of Edmondson Avenue. From there, it headed west on Edmondson Avenue for another 21 blocks before the driver lost control, police said.
The accident caused the Wilson youth to be ejected from the car and Mr. Guy had to be extracted from the wreckage, investigators said.
Police said there were no skid marks and the car was destroyed. Mr. Guy's mother, Theresa Ann Morris, owned the Ford Escort and on Friday reported to authorities that it had been taken without her permission.
Mr. Miller said an internal investigation is under way to determine if the officer and his supervisor acted in accordance with pursuit policy.
Police supervisors can dictate when officers must discontinue a pursuit. At least four persons have already been interviewed, Mr. Miller said.