Out-of-control taxi kills woman on stoop Driver says passenger tried to rob him

September 22, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A 78-year-old woman who was sitting on the steps of her Southwest Baltimore rowhouse was killed yesterday when she was hit by a speeding taxi. The taxi driver told police he lost control when a passenger pulled out a gun to rob him.

Annie Harrell, who had lived in the 1800 block of Penrose Ave. since the early 1970s, was a fixture on her steps, where neighbors say she sat every day to keep watch on the street and chat with people passing by.

"It's hard to understand how this happened, but it did," said Dorothy Jackson, 75, one of her neighbors and friends. "She never knew what hit her."

The accident angered Harrell's neighbors and relatives. It took firefighters about an hour to extricate her body from under the crumpled cab, which was wedged between a tree and the victim's front door.

"She just sits there all day and minds her business," said James Makell, 37, as a police cruiser drove off with the cab driver in the back seat. The cab driver shielded his face from news cameras.

"There's no handcuffs on him or anything," Makell complained.

Detective Marvin Sydnor said no charges were placed against the driver, Paul Fakunle, 53, who works for Checker Cab Co., after he was interviewed last night at police headquarters. "The driver was struggling with a gunman during a robbery and lost control of the cab," Sydnor said.

He said the gunman will be charged with first-degree murder because the woman was killed during the commission of a felony.

Harrell's relatives said they did not want to talk to reporters at the scene. They were visibly shaken; the victim's 40-year-old son, Herman Harrell, sat across the street from the cab and slowly shook his head.

Later yesterday afternoon, with homicide detectives still examining the cab, police called for more officers to the street to help with distraught and upset family members who had heard of the accident and sped to the scene.

The accident occurred about 1 p.m. The driver told police he picked up the fare at Lafayette Avenue and Poplar Grove Street and was told to go to Penrose Avenue and North Monroe Street.

There, the driver told police, the passenger pulled a handgun and demanded his money. During a struggle, the driver lost control of the cab, which crossed the street and ran up onto the sidewalk.

fTC The cab first struck the steps at 1802 Penrose Ave. and still had enough force to hit the next set of steps, where Harrell was sitting, at 1804 Penrose. The front end of the cab knocked over concrete steps at 1806 Penrose Ave. before it stopped, straddling the steps where the victim had been.

Sydnor said police believe the gunman "lives near the accident scene because he was specific about where he wanted to be taken."

Pub Date: 9/22/98

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