Police say officer had right of way

Driver in fatal crash followed procedures, deputy chief reports

November 21, 1999|By Tim Craig and Jill Hudson Neal | Tim Craig and Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County police officer who was driving the cruiser that slammed into a car and left a woman dead and her 2-year-old daughter in grave condition appears to have been following proper departmental procedures, officials said yesterday.

Deputy Police Chief Gary Barr said the accident Friday night was still under investigation, but that a preliminary review by the department shows that the officer, responding to an armed robbery call, had the right of way when he struck the woman's car in Millersville.

Officer Stephen C. Perron, a two-year veteran, has not been charged and remained on medical leave with injuries from the accident.

Perron "is very upset and distraught over the situation," Barr said yesterday at a news conference outside police headquarters in Millersville. "The department feels terrible."

The officer was speeding to a call at Saunders Florist in the Northway Shopping Center when a car driven by Brandi Lynn Forney, 20, of Glen Burnie, pulled out in front of his cruiser as it sped west on Old Mill Road in Millersville shortly after 5 p.m.

Forney died at 9: 45 p.m. Friday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Her daughter, Kelsey Forney, was on life support and in critical condition last night at the Johns Hopkins Hospital children's center in Baltimore.

Perron, also of Glen Burnie, was treated for minor hip and chest injuries at North Arundel Hospital and was released Friday night.

Barr said the officer will undergo traumatic-incident counselingbeginning today or tomorrow.

The officer had a passenger on a police ride-along, Marc T. Gilbert, a Bell Atlantic executive from Severna Park. Gilbert declined medical treatment.

Barr said Perron was about 1 mile from the florist shop when he received the armed robbery call.

Perron and his passenger then began -- with the cruiser's lights and sirens activated -- speeding west on Old Mill Boulevard toward the intersection of Old Mill Road.

The speed limit on that stretch of road is 30 mph. Barr said Perron was exceeding that, but would not speculate as to how fast he was traveling.

Just before the accident, Forney's 1997 white Pontiac Grand Prix was southbound on Old Mill Road and had stopped at a stop sign at its intersection with Old Mill Boulevard. Forney's daughter was strapped in a car seat in the rear passenger seat.

Police said that Perron and at least one other police cruiser approached the intersection with their sirens on and lights flashing when Forney suddenly turned left onto Old Mill Road and was struck in a violent crash that was heard blocks away.

The Maryland motor vehicle code allows police officers responding to emergency calls to disregard certain traffic laws, such as speeding and stop lights, Barr said.

An armed robbery call is a priority call that requires a swift response, Barr said.

"But what you need to do is slow down as you approach an intersection," Barr said.

The armed gunman, who robbed the flower shop of an undetermined amount of cash, eluded police.

Barr cautioned that the police investigation was in its early stages.

Both Anne Arundel police accident investigators and the state's attorney's office are investigating the accident. Prosecutors investigate all fatal accidents and shootings involving police officers, Barr said.

Friday's accident came less than two weeks after an accident involving an Anne Arundel County police cruiser and a car that turned in front of it at Route 648 and Mountain Road. In that accident, in which two people were injured, the officer driving the cruiser was responding to another officer's emergency call for assistance.

That accident, which occurred Nov. 6, is still under investigation, but Barr said that incident and several minor accidents recently have caused the department to re-evaluate its emergency response driving procedures.

County police periodically must undergo a driver's education course, Barr said.

Pub Date: 11/21/99

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