A career inseparable from family

Officer killed in crash had father, brother, 2 relatives on force

March 10, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Jamie A. Roussey had one career and one family. The two were indistinguishable.

His father, brother, uncle and cousin doubled as colleagues in the Baltimore Police Department, a proud lineage that makes the Roussey name synonymous with law enforcement for virtually anyone who wears a badge in the city.

The close ties were evident Wednesday, when Roussey sped to help three fellow officers and died when his cruiser collided with another car in West Baltimore. His cousin, Seth Roussey, was the first officer on the scene.

"That's a very proud police family," said Mayor Martin O'Malley, who has Roussey's uncle, Officer Vincent Roussey, on his security detail. "He was a young, bright, dedicated kid who has the toughest job in this great city."

O'Malley ordered flags flown at half staff until Monday's funeral at the family church in Catonsville. Roussey, 22, is the third officer in two years to die in the line of duty and the 100th since the department was formed in 1870.

He graduated from the police academy four months ago. He lived with his motherand father, Frederick, a police sergeant, who often brought his young son to work in the Western District.

"He knew he was going to be a Baltimore City police officer," said Rob Tomback, Roussey's principal at Catonsville High School. "There was no doubt. He had his sights set on that, and that is what he achieved."

Grief-stricken family members did not make public statements yesterday but indicated they might meet with reporters today. Two years ago, Roussey's parents took out a full-page ad in his high school yearbook to showcase their son's achievements.

"Your sparkling personality and sense of humor have brightened many days," they wrote under a photo spread showing Roussey in his football uniform, standing beside his pickup truck and smiling as a baby.

"Nothing is beyond your reach," they added. "We love you and we'll always be there to support you."

Roussey was killed as he sped through an intersection at North Fulton Avenue and West Fayette Street about 5: 45 p.m. Wednesday. He was trying to reach officers running after a man suspected of possessing marijuana. The suspect was later arrested.

A Dodge Neon broadsided the passenger side of the police Jeep, sending it hurtling into a utility pole and crushing the driver's side of the vehicle.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation. Maj. Michael Bass, a police spokesman, said witnesses reported that Roussey had his emergency lights and siren activated, but that he may have gone through a red light.

Police vehicles are allowed to go through red lights only after coming to a complete stop, to make sure the intersection is clear of traffic. Bass said investigators have not determined whether that was done in this case.

The driver and passenger of the Neon have not been charged or cited in connection with the crash. But police said they found a Glock 9 mm gun in the Neon's trunk and suspected drug paraphernalia with a trace amount of suspected marijuana.

Calvin Thompson Jr., 20, of the 4100 block of Mountwood Road, and Robert Scott, 28, of the 100 block of Palormo Ave., were charged with handgun and drug possession and were being held in the Central Booking and Intake Center last night.

Accidents involving police cars occur frequently, though the numbers have declined since 1995, when 554 were reported. That year, 186 were listed as the officer's fault. In 1998 -- the most recent year numbers are available -- 255 departmental accidents occurred, with 95 listed as the officer's fault.

Officer Harold A. Carey was killed in 1998 when his cruiser collided with another patrol car -- both speeding to the same emergency. One went through a red light.

Roussey's death hit the Western District station hard. Though new to the police force, the young officer was well-liked. He wanted to patrol the Western, in one of the city's toughest neighborhoods, and teased his cousin, Seth, assigned to the more sedate Southern, officers there said.

"My learning experiences will be a lot greater than yours," he told his cousin, recalled Sgt. Andre O. Monroe. "He used to always come up to me, and he used to tell me how excited he was to come into the Western District."

The mood was somber during yesterday's roll call for Roussey's 4 p.m. to midnight shift. Lt. John Mack told officers that Roussey would want them to continue to make the city safer.

Business as usual was easier said than done yesterday. "Behind this blue uniform, there are definitely hurt souls," Mack said.

Roussey grew up in Catonsville, across the street from the high school -- a center of neighborhood activity in the close-knit community. The response to a call to the school and a request for someone who knows the Rousseys tells how well the name is known there.

"That would be everybody," said an administrator.

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