A Baltimore man whose decision to flee from Howard County authorities sparked a police chase that left two officers injured when their cars crashed on the way to the pursuit was convicted yesterday of drug and traffic offenses related to the chase.
But he was acquitted of all but a single misdemeanor assault charge related to allegations that he tried to run down two other officers with his car during the incident.
A Howard County Circuit Court jury took six hours to return the split verdict against Derrick McDonald, 39, of the 700 block of Lennox St., apparently deciding that McDonald intended to hurt only one officer, even though two testified that he drove toward them on Tarbay Drive on Oct. 30, 2000, forcing them to jump out of the way.
Jurors convicted McDonald of misdemeanor assault against Officer John Mould, but acquitted him of a similar charge involving Officer Stephen Crawford. They found him not guilty of felony assault charges involving both officers.
The jury also convicted McDonald of reckless driving, negligent driving and fleeing or eluding charges related to the chase and heroin possession charges related to a capsule found in his pocket after he was arrested.
McDonald's sentencing by Judge Dennis M. Sweeney is scheduled for Feb. 22. He could receive a maximum of 10 years on the assault conviction, a year for fleeing and eluding and four years for heroin possession. The two driving charges carry fines.
Mould and Crawford had briefly stopped McDonald's Chevrolet Malibu about 1 a.m. after it crossed the center line on Tarbay Drive and had gotten out of their cars when McDonald made a U-turn and drove toward them, according to testimony and court documents. Both officers jumped out of the way - Crawford into his cruiser, Mould behind his car - to avoid being hit, according to testimony.
In closing arguments yesterday, prosecutor Lynn Marshall and defense attorney Leslie Dobres disagreed on McDonald's intent.
Marshall argued that McDonald intended to hit the officers, but Dobres said her client was trying to skirt the police cruisers in a panicked attempt to get away.
"This defendant tried to mow them down in his car," Marshall said. "He never slowed down, and he never stopped until he was apprehended."
But Dobres noted that the officers had their headlights on bright.
"I don't think he was even able to see these officers with takedown lights in his face," she said.
Crawford and Mould followed the Malibu onto Rappahannock Avenue and onto a business parking lot. McDonald bailed out of the car after it went down a rocky embankment and was later arrested, according to testimony.
Officers Richard Cumby and Bonita Linkins were on their way to the scene when one of the officers turned off Route 175 and collided with the other officer's cruiser. The impact forced Linkins' car into a skid across a median and into a tractor-trailer.
Both officers were airlifted to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Cumby's injuries included a severe arm sprain. Linkins suffered injuries to her face and right leg.