Driver in fatal crash has history of violations

Operator of pickup truck that hit officer's cruiser had a suspended license

July 22, 2004|By Liz F. Kay and Andrea F. Siegel | Liz F. Kay and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The driver of a pickup truck that slammed into a police cruiser and killed a decorated officer east of the Bay Bridge on Tuesday was driving with a suspended license and has a history of traffic and misdemeanor drug violations, court records show.

The license of Albert Gene Antonelli, 32, of the 100 block of Greenwood Creek Road in Queenstown in Queen Anne's County, was suspended several times for different reasons since 2001, including Antonelli's failure to appear in District Court in Annapolis in December. Registration for his truck also was suspended last year for emissions violations.

Officials said Antonelli was at the wheel of his Dodge pickup just before 10 a.m. Tuesday when it slammed into Maryland Transportation Authority Officer Duke G. Aaron III's cruiser, which was on the right shoulder of U.S. 50. The 29-year-old Aaron, a three-time Officer of the Year with the authority, died later at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Antonelli also was taken to Shock Trauma and was released Tuesday. Authority officials said charges have not been filed.

As the family gathered last night to discuss funeral arrangements, Aaron's father, Duke G. Aaron Jr., said he had not formed an opinion about Antonelli.

"We don't have all the details on it, so we're not going to be the first to throw a stone," said the officer's father. "If he was in the wrong ... he's got to live with it the rest of his life, knowing what he did to ours."

Posthumous promotion

The father was proud when he learned yesterday that authority officials posthumously promoted his son, a 10-year veteran, to the rank of corporal. A graduate of Chesapeake High School, Aaron had wanted to be a police officer since he was 8 years old, his father said.

The late officer's wife, Jennifer, said he loved his job. The two met when she was 17, on a blind date 10 years and 10 days before his death.

"He was my Prince Charming," she said. "He made all my dreams come true."

Antonelli could not be reached yesterday, but a woman identifying herself as his mother, Carole Antonelli, said from the family's home in Queenstown that Antonelli and his family were devastated. She expressed sorrow for the family of the officer.

"It was a terrible thing that happened for everyone concerned," she said. As for her son, she said, "I don't know if he'll ever recover from it."

Antonelli was arrested in June 1998 and charged in Annapolis District Court with failure to stop for a police officer, failure to use a seat belt, reckless and negligent driving, failure to display a license or registration, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Those charges were stetted, or placed on hold indefinitely.

According to charging documents in that case, Antonelli was spotted by an officer speeding and weaving in and out of traffic on Interstate 97. He failed to stop for the officer, who pursued him onto Interstate 695 and finally onto Ritchie Highway, where Antonelli was cornered and arrested. Police said they found in Antonelli's possession a pipe that could be used for smoking marijuana.

Since 1995, Antonelli had received 18 traffic citations, according to computerized traffic records, but the details and outcomes were not immediately available.

Starting in 2000, he was placed on traffic probation three times for tickets. Two tickets were for driving with a suspended license. The other ticket was for either reckless or negligent driving; details were not available yesterday. Antonelli currently has no points against his driving record.

In December 2002, he pleaded guilty in another case of possession of drug paraphernalia and was given a year of probation, according to court records. Twice last year, warrants were issued for Antonelli because he failed to meet the terms of his probation.

He was arrested on the first warrant in April last year and paid $55 in fees. On June 29 this year, Antonelli wrote a letter asking that the second warrant be lifted because he was hospitalized at the time of the court hearing. The warrant was lifted July 2.

Records indicate that he repeatedly failed to appear in court for child support and District Court criminal hearings. Court records show Antonelli was ordered freed July 12 from the Anne Arundel County Detention Center after he paid $1,000 toward overdue child support for his 9-year-old daughter.

Yesterday, Aaron's relatives remembered the officer fondly.

Aaron's father said his son had opportunities to advance as an officer but enjoyed working with the other officers on the Bay Bridge so much he did not want to leave them.

`Big boy' toys

Jennifer Aaron said her husband loved "big boy" toys such as his 4 x 4 truck and Harley Davidson mini-chopper. He celebrated his 29th birthday July 5 with a trip to an all-you-can-eat steamed crab feast. Aaron and his father often visited a relative on the Eastern Shore to go deer hunting and skeet shooting.

Cindy Zimmerman, his sister, said that her brother was a constant presence in her two daughters' lives, attending school functions and soccer games. "It's going to be very, very hard because now I'm an only child," she said.

Aaron's funeral will be held at McCully-Polyniak Funeral Home, 3204 Mountain Road, Pasadena, at 11 a.m. Monday. He will be buried at Glen Haven Memorial Park, 7215 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie.

Sun staff writer Childs Walker contributed to this article.

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