Officer in crash was speeding

State police report on '06 fatal accident

November 08, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun reporter

A Maryland state trooper who fatally struck a pedestrian with his cruiser in Carroll County last year was traveling nearly 30 mph over the speed limit, according to a state police report on the incident.

Randy L. Rakes, 38, of Finksburg, was crossing Route 140 near Sandymount Road with a friend when he was hit by Trooper Dale A. Derr about 11:59 p.m. Nov. 28.

The investigation report contains details that contradict information previously released by police. The report also concludes that two factors contributed to the crash: Rakes failed to yield right of way to the cruiser when "unsafely" crossing the road, and Derr exceeded the posted speed limit, "traveling 83 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone."

The crash likely would not have occurred if Derr had been driving at or closer to the posted speed limit, the report said.

Rakes' family says the report raises questions. The family filed a multimillion-dollar civil suit against Derr and the state police, saying the trooper "negligently and recklessly failed to recognize the presence of Randy Rakes in the roadway," according to documents filed in Carroll Circuit Court last month.

"There was no reason for the trooper to be traveling at the speed at which he was traveling," said David Ellin, the attorney who filed the suit for Rakes' mother, Jeane Blizzard, and his daughter, Ashley Zombro. "Why has this trooper not been charged with anything?"

State police issued a statement Tuesday, saying the information police released initially "was based on investigative evidence and statements available at that time."

The investigation has been completed, a state police spokesman, Maj. Greg Shipley, said yesterday, and Derr is on duty. Citing the pending litigation, Shipley declined to comment further.

The Frederick County state's attorney's office was asked to review the incident, said David Daggett, Carroll's deputy state's attorney.

Telephone calls to the Frederick state's attorney's office were not returned yesterday.

On the night of the crash, Rakes had been walking with a friend along the southbound shoulder of Route 140 when they decided to cross the road, according to the report. After running to the median, the report said, the friend slowed to check for traffic and saw Derr's cruiser coming.

But Rakes "continued running into the northbound lanes without even looking," and was hit by the right front corner of Derr's cruiser, the report said, citing the friend's account of the accident.

Derr, who had finished a shift that ended at 11 p.m., was heading to the Westminster barracks to submit paperwork, according to the report.

That contradicts an earlier police statement that Derr "was on his way to back up a fellow trooper on a burglary call."

The cruiser's "tire marks indicate that the pedestrian was struck somewhere near the edge line," the report said. "It is not possible to determine exact pedestrian location, only an area."

But Rakes' family says the report's reference to the location of the tire marks raises questions: The vehicle's right tires were about 7 inches outside the edge line along the northbound shoulder when he "reacted to the pedestrian," according to the report.

Blizzard said that shows that her son "wasn't even on the road," while Ellin said that and the speed issue raise the question of whether the trooper should face criminal charges.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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