Police say policy followed in pursuit Woman lost part of leg when hit by stolen car officer was tracking

January 29, 1996|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Kate Shatzkin and Dennis O'Brien contributed to this article.

A Baltimore County police officer conformed to policy Saturday when he followed a car that later went out of control and severely injured a 36-year-old Northeast Baltimore woman, county police said yesterday.

Adrienne Walker-Pittman -- a spokeswoman for Baltimore-Washington International Airport who became the face and voice of the airport during this month's blizzard -- lost her left leg below the knee.

Baltimore County Cpl. James Conaboy said the officer saw a 1992 Honda heading west along Radecke Avenue near Hamilton Avenue, then learned through a computer check of the license plate that the car had been stolen in Baltimore Wednesday.

The county police officer, identified by city police as Officer David E. Schwanke of the White Marsh precinct, followed the car along Radecke Avenue for several blocks, crossed into Baltimore and radioed for help. County police said Officer Schwanke did not have emergency lights or sirens on while following the stolen car.

He lost sight of the car when the driver ran a stop sign at an intersection along Radecke and came upon the accident moments after it happened, Corporal Conaboy said.

The department's standard procedure is to follow stolen cars at moderate speeds until backup officers arrive to assist in making a stop, the corporal said.

"A lot of times we'll follow stolen cars for a while," Corporal Conaboy said. "The officer didn't witness the accident, just the aftermath. He was following the vehicle, just try-ing to get additional units down there.

"The vehicle took off on him, ran a stop sign. He pulled up on the aftermath of this accident. Had the vehicle not had an accident, he probably never would have seen it again."

Mrs. Walker-Pittman had been reaching into the trunk of her car as movers packed furniture at her family's Todd Avenue home in Cedonia when a stolen 1992 Honda hit a moving van then hit her shortly before noon Saturday, police said. She was listed in critical but stable condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center last night.

"All I heard was a booming sound," said Helena Weber, who lives on Todd Avenue a few houses away from where Mrs. Walker-Pittman lives with her husband, Jerry, and their 4-year-old son.

"It sounded horrible. We understand she was putting things in the trunk of her car. It was raining hard, and I didn't know what was going on. I've been praying all along, ever since I heard."

Baltimore police traffic investigation Sgt. Paul Davis said witnesses estimated that the stolen car and the officer's vehicle were traveling 40 mph. Neighbors said the posted speed limit is 25 mph.

Agent Ragina L. Cooper, a Baltimore police spokeswoman, said that the 17-year-old driver of the car the Baltimore County officer was following has been charged with auto theft and that he has refused to talk to police. The Sun is not identifying the driver because he is a juvenile.

Agent Cooper confirmed Corporal Conaboy's explanation of how the accident occurred.

After the accident, the youth jumped out of the car and ran, but was arrested a few blocks away, police said.

Mrs. Walker-Pittman started working at BWI about six years ago after working with the Governor's Council on Youth and Families and on the assignment desk at WBAL-TV, said Linda Greene, her boss at BWI.

Ms. Greene, who spent part of yesterday at Bayview Medical Center visiting Mrs. Walker-Pittman, said her friend and colleague always kept co-workers' spirits up with her sense of humor and upbeat attitude.

"She's our bedrock, and when times were rough we always went to her," Ms. Greene said. "So we want to be there for her now. She's a beloved colleague, and we're all praying for her."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.