Student dies in accident that ends police chase

Unlicensed driver is charged with vehicular manslaughter

September 11, 1999|By Peter Hermann and Edward Lee | Peter Hermann and Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A 21-year-old college student driving through Charles Village was killed yesterday afternoon when his Honda Civic was broadsided by a car being pursued by at least two or three Baltimore police cruisers.

Marc David Levy, a student at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash -- 15 blocks north of where he lived at St. Paul and East Biddle streets in midtown.

The impact of the crash sent the cars spinning around 2: 30 p.m. at a busy Charles Village intersection and trapped Levy in a mangled heap of metal. Firefighters had to cut off the side of the car to extricate his body.

Police said the car they were pursuing, a 1999 Nissan Altima, was being driven by an unlicensed 17-year-old driver who was caught running from the crash in the 2600 block of Lovegrove St., an alley about a block from the accident scene.

The youth was charged as a juvenile last night with vehicular manslaughter. Investigators said he would be held in a city juvenile detention center until a court hearing can be scheduled for Monday, when prosecutors will determine whether to charge him as an adult.

Agent Ragina L. Cooper, a police spokeswoman, said officers searched the juvenile and found 18 plastic bags containing a white rock-like substance, which police say they believe is cocaine. It had not yet been tested at a lab.

Traffic investigators were trying to determine last night whether officers were in pursuit of the teen's Nissan at a high rate of speed or whether they were following the car at a moderate rate.

"We have conflicting statements whether he was chased," Cooper said.

Because of congested city streets, police usually are forbidden from car chases, unless the suspect is wanted on a serious offense and approval is given by supervisors. Cooper said some witnesses reported seeing at least one cruiser with its sirens and lights on as it sped after the Nissan.

Other witnesses, Cooper said, reported that none of the patrol cars was speeding. An account from the officers involved in the accident was not available last night.

David Custy, a witness, said it appeared that police cars were close behind the Nissan. As soon as the crash occurred, Custy said, a police vehicle screeched to a halt at the intersection.

Custy, who works in an office at the corner of Guilford Avenue and St. Paul Street, said the teen driver of the Nissan jumped out after the crash and ran into a nearby alley with an officer chasing him on foot.

Cooper said the incident began at East 29th and Barclay streets near Barclay Elementary School when several officers spotted the Nissan being driven by the 17-year-old, a youth they were familiar with and knew did not hold a driver's license. The owner of the car has not been determined.

Police stopped the car, and an officer got out to question the young driver. Cooper said the youth suddenly took off in the car, hit a minivan parked in front of him and then struck the officer in the legs, causing minor injuries.

The teen drove two blocks south on Barclay Street and turned onto East 27th Street, "running red lights," Cooper said, as it headed six blocks to the intersection of 27th and St. Paul streets.

Custy said he saw the Honda Civic traveling south on St. Paul before the crash. He said the Nissan broadsided the Honda on the driver's side, smashing it "so far in that the front and back were about to accordion."

The impact spun the Honda onto the sidewalk of St. John's United Methodist Church. Police said the Nissan careened off the Honda and struck a parked Toyota near the intersection.

The unidentified officer struck in the legs by the Nissan was treated for minor injuries at Mercy Medical Center and released.

Sun staff writer Jacques Kelly contributed to this article.

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