Officer speeding to help is killed 2nd policeman called for aid when suspect became combative

2 officers are injured

October 31, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Jacques Kelly, Eric Siegel, Scott Higham, Rafael Alvarez and contributing writer Daniel Valentine contributed to this article.

A Baltimore police officer's urgent call for help led to tragedy yesterday morning when a speeding police van and a cruiser collided at a midtown intersection, killing an officer and injuring two others, one of them seriously.

Officer Harold J. Carey, a 28-year-old Douglass High School graduate who studied engineering before joining the force six years ago, was killed instantly in the crash that sent his police van skidding on its side and into a wall of a senior citizens $H high-rise.

The crushed van landed on top of a parked Chevrolet Monte Carlo, injuring its owner, who was sitting in the driver's seat.

It took firefighters an hour to extricate Carey and the van's driver, Officer Keith L. Owens, who suffered injuries to his head and spine.

The officers had been speeding to help a colleague who was struggling with a man on North Charles Street.

The van collided with a cruiser driven by Officer Lavon'De Alston, who was responding to the same call for help.

"My sympathy goes out to the family and Officer Carey's wife," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who left a drug conference in Washington to visit with mourning family members.

"This is a terrible loss for them and a terrible loss for this community," he said.

Carey, the son of a truck driver, is the 11th city officer to die in the line of duty since 1981.

Flags in Maryland were ordered to fly at half-staff and black mourning ribbons were distributed to officers to wear across their badges.

The accident cast a pall over the Police Department, especially the downtown Central District, where the three officers worked.

Crisis counselors and chaplains spent the day at the East Baltimore Street station house, and officers from across the city stepped in to work for their grief-stricken colleagues.

"I felt I belonged here," said Northeastern District Lt. J. A. Chianca Jr., who had worked in Central until January.

"At least [the officers] know I still care. That's something."

He described Carey as a "very, very good officer" who "really cared for the people in the community."

Carey had been awarded a bronze star in 1993 for shooting a man armed with a .357-caliber Magnum handgun.

Despite his large size, Carey was soft-spoken.

"He was a gentle giant," said Sgt. Mark Walrath, his former partner and academy classmate.

The officer's stepmother and his wife, Karen, huddled with police commanders and doctors in a guarded room on the first floor of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, which was filled with teary officers, including the one who had made the urgent call for help.

Police delayed releasing any information for hours as they anxiously waited for the dead officer's father, Harold A. Carey Jr., to arrive at the hospital.

He had been in Carlisle, Pa., preparing to go on a truck run. Funeral arrangements were incomplete last night.

A call for help

The accident occurred shortly after 8: 07 a.m., the time Officer Ty Crane shouted for help into his radio when a man he was trying to arrest on a charge of disorderly conduct in the 1900 block of N. Charles St. became combative.

Owens, 30, was driving the police van on North Howard Street when he heard the call.

He flipped on his lights and sirens and sped south.

Alston, also 30, was driving his cruiser east on West 20th Street and headed to the same call.

The crash sent the van careening across the street, onto a sidewalk and into a building.

Alston's cruiser skidded 200 feet down Maryland Avenue, its windshield smashed and its left wheel and tire crushed.

Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said last night that investigators had not determined the exact sequence of the crash, and he did not know whether any of the injured officers was wearing a seat belt.

Police also said they had conflicting statements from witnesses as to which officer had the green light.

Police vehicles are required to stop briefly at all red lights and stop signs, even if they are responding to an emergency, to make sure the intersection is clear of traffic.

Two witnesses told The Sun that the van had the green light. "The police car never did come to a stop," said Leonard Haskins, 48.

Maurice Bruton, a security guard for the Charles Village Benefits District, said he saw both vehicles speeding into the intersection before they collided.

"I ran over to help, and I ran over to try and pull the officer out," he said.

"When you see something like this, it really is a bad feeling. The officers were moaning real bad," he said.

The driver of the Monte Carlo, George Greene, 61, of the 1100 block of Pennsylvania Ave., suffered minor injuries and was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

He declined to comment last night.

Police cordoned off the intersection as firefighters used power saws to cut off the top and side of the van to reach the victims.

Two Maryland State Police MedEvac helicopters hovered over the scene and landed on nearby parking lots.

Tears for a colleague

One officer cried profusely and was consoled by others.

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