Truck spurs police chase

Officers follow rig up I-95 from city to Delaware line

2nd charge in 4 years

State trooper shoots out tires to stop driver

September 12, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The driver of a tractor-trailer cab led police on a 80-mile chase from East Baltimore to Cecil County yesterday afternoon, and was finally stopped when police said a state trooper shot the vehicle's tires as it approached the Delaware line.

Authorities said they took the unusual action of firing on a moving vehicle because several attempts, including laying a spike strip across the road, failed to stop the speeding rig.

"It was obvious that the driver was evading the police and was operating in a reckless manner, placing other motorists in grave danger," said a statement from State Police Lt. Joseph A. Baker Jr.

State police charged Gregory M. Wallace, 36, of the 800 block of Exeter Hall Ave. in Northeast Baltimore last night with two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, vehicle theft, possession of drugs and numerous traffic offenses.

It is the second time in four years that Wallace - who was awaiting a bail hearing last night - has been involved in a truck chase.

He was charged in 1996 with stealing a tractor-trailor cab and leading police on a 250-mile pursuit from Baltimore to Delaware, from Delaware to Bethesda, from Bethesda to Elkton, and from Elkton to Sparks, where the truck stopped after hitting a guard rail.

Court records show that Wallace was found not guilty of stealing the truck, but was convicted on traffic charges related to the chase. He was sentenced to four years in jail on Dec. 12, 1996. His release date could not be determined last night.

Baltimore police began yesterday's hourlong chase about 3 p.m. on the city's east side. The Freightliner rig had been sought since Sunday morning after city police said its driver sped away from a routine traffic stop and rammed a cruiser.

After getting on Interstate 95 at Pulaski Highway, police said, the truck driver raced north up the interstate at speeds in excess of 90 mph.

They said two state police cruisers were rammed, and several civilian cars were forced from the busy roadway and damaged. First Sgt. Daniel Benham, a 21-year veteran, suffered a dislocated shoulder when the cruiser he was driving spun into an embankment after being rammed. Another cruiser became disabled in the center lane of the highway.

"He just ran me off the road," Baltimore police Lt. Carl Gutberlet radioed at one point. "I'm back behind him now. ... We're in excess of 80. ... We're into Harford County."

A few minutes later, Gutberlet told his dispatcher: "He just rear-ended another trooper. At this point, we're just letting him run clear so he doesn't ram us."

The pursuit ended on I-95 north of Route 272 in Rising Sun in Cecil County, about five miles south of the Delaware border.

State police said last night that they deployed "stop sticks," or spikes, at the northbound toll plaza in Perryville. The right front tire and a rear tire were punctured, but police said the truck continued for another 3 miles.

A cruiser with two troopers inside then pulled alongside the truck and the trooper in the passenger side fired several shots at the tires, state police said. The tires deflated and the truck rolled to a stop.

State police said the driver was arrested and a glass smoking device containing suspected crack cocaine was found in one of his pockets. Police could not determine last night whether the driver was impaired.

Baltimore police said that the driver took the rig from his employer without permission. The company owner filed a police report Sunday night.

Baltimore police spokeswoman Agent Angelique Cook-Hayes said that on Sunday, a traffic officer pulled over the rig at East Monument Street and North Milton Avenue for going through a red light.

When the officer asked the driver for his license, Cook-Hayes said, the driver started his engine and drove away. At the other end of the intersection, he stopped and a woman jumped out of the cab.

The officer drove his cruiser in front of the truck, but Cook-Hayes said the driver took off again and rammed the car.

Police began a pursuit, but were ordered to break it off because of the danger of chasing a truck through crowded city streets.

Yesterday afternoon, a city officer in the Eastern District spotted the rig in the 1400 block of E. North Ave. and followed it with lights and sirens on onto I-95 near Pulaski Highway and Moravia Road. "There, it started to pick up speed," Cook-Hayes said. The truck pulled in behind Gutberlet, who heads the traffic division; he was on his way home and driving an unmarked white cruiser.

Gutberlet put on his lights and sirens and stayed in front of the speeding truck "to alert civilian motorists," said Cook-Hayes, the city police spokeswoman.

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