Police car kills boy at crossing in Pimlico Witnesses say siren, lights were not in use

April 28, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore City police car struck and killed a 7-year-old boy in Northwest Baltimore late yesterday afternoon, but police said accounts differed over whether the car's emergency lights and siren were on.

Witnesses said the boy, Melvin Bettis, of the 2800 block of Waldorf Avenue, had just left a corner grocery store in the 4600 block of Reisterstown Road in Pimlico about 4: 40 p.m. and had started to cross the street.

The police car was one of three going north on Reisterstown Road to help an officer who needed assistance with a burglary in progress on Belvedere Avenue. The second car was a block behind and the third was several blocks behind, police said.

The driver of the lead car was identified as Officer Robert Velt, 22, a member of the force since December 1994. Police did not release the identities of the other two officers yesterday.

A 24-year-old woman -- whom the police interviewed as a witness but who refused to give her name -- gave this account: "He just flew up in the air like a rag doll when the car hit him. Then, as he came down, his head struck the spotlight, and the boy landed under the other car."

The woman said lead police car's siren wasn't turned on until moments before the vehicle struck the boy and she had not heard any other sirens.

Nineteen-year-old Reginald White, as well as others in the neighborhood who said they heard the car hit the boy, said that neither the lead car nor the second one was using its siren.

Sam Ringgold, a police spokesman, said witnesses had produced conflicting accounts. He said the speed of the police car had not been determined.

All of the officers should have had their emergency lights and sirens on because they were responding to a call of an officer in need of assistance, Mr. Ringgold said. Officer Velt was being questioned last night, but, unlike the case with police shootings, he was not automatically placed on administrative leave.

The boy was initially hit by the hood of the car and thrown up in the air. He then struck the spotlight attached to the driver's side of the car and landed beneath the front tire of a parked 1990 dark blue Oldsmobile 88.

He was pronounced dead on arrival at Sinai Hospital.

After the accident, the light blue police Ford Taurus that hit the boy sat about a half-block away from where he had landed. The driver's side front hood was dented, the spotlight was broken off and blood was smeared across the driver's side window and side-view mirror.

"We didn't hear anything, and then we saw Melvin come back across the street," Mr. White said. "He didn't see or hear anything, or else Melvin never would have crossed.

"The next thing I heard was the roar of an engine, and I saw him get hit the first time," he said.

The boy's tearful family declined to be interviewed, but neighborhood friends said that Melvin was a second-grader at Pimlico Elementary School.

"I had just been playing with him and riding bikes, and then he went to the store and we kept playing," said Candice Lewis, 7. "I'm going to miss him. A lot."

Another neighbor, Deloris Little, 42, said that Melvin "was really a well-liked young man."

The accident occurred a block from where a 2-year-old girl was killed two years ago when she was struck by a 14-year-old boy driving a sports car. The girl, Chantelle Parrotte, was dragged a short distance by the car.

"They really need a light at that intersection," said Tamarkia Little, 16, who lives a block away.

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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