Officer held in fatal hit-run

Driver is traced from plate found at I-95 crash site

January 29, 2008|By Justin Fenton and Mary Gail Hare | Justin Fenton and Mary Gail Hare,Sun reporters

An off-duty Anne Arundel County police officer was taken into custody yesterday after a fatal hit-and-run accident on Interstate 95 near Aberdeen that killed a 28-year-old Baltimore man and shut down traffic in both directions during morning rush hour.

The officer, whom state troopers traced, using a license plate found at the scene, to a home in Cecil County, has not been identified.

But Anne Arundel County police Chief James Teare Sr. said in a statement last night that the man is a county patrol officer who has been with the agency for more than three years.

"I was saddened and disturbed to learn about this morning's fatal accident on Interstate 95 in Harford County involving an off-duty Anne Arundel County police officer," Col. Teare said in a statement. " ... The public should know that we hold our officers to the highest ethical standards, and any allegation of misconduct will be investigated to the fullest extent. We hold every member responsible to maintain an exemplary standard of personal integrity."

State police said the suspect was at a relative's house in Cecil County about 9:15 a.m. and detained, pending charges as state police investigators consulted with Harford County prosecutors.

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly was traveling yesterday and said in a phone interview that he did not know the details of the case.

Shortly before 6 a.m., a 2005 Nissan Pathfinder traveling north struck the rear of a Ford Explorer, which spun out of control, flipped over the guardrail and landed on the southbound shoulder, police said. The driver of the Nissan was believed to have stopped briefly, then fled the scene, police said.

Antonio M. Martinez of Fieldcrest Road in Baltimore was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.

Two passengers - Jamie Martinez Salas, 35, and Jose E. Ramos Olvera, 19, both of Sprigg Court in Baltimore County - were taken to Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, police said.

Teare said the unidentified officer's police powers have been suspended but that he is scheduled to return to duty in a "couple of days," at which time he will be placed in a paid administrative position without law enforcement powers. Sgt. Sara Schriver, a county police spokeswoman, said the officer is ensured that opportunity under the Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights.

This month, the county department was sued by three women who claimed that a rookie Anne Arundel County police officer asked them to bare their breasts during traffic stops and snapped a photograph of himself fondling one of them.

The officer, a defendant in the lawsuit, was convicted of misconduct in office last year and stripped of his badge amid allegations that he had threatened to take the women to jail unless they agreed to lift their tops.

In their suit, the plaintiffs also allege the officer and others were hired despite being unqualified and had failed necessary tests. They accuse Teare and former Chief P. Thomas Shanahan of negligence.

The Police Department has declined to comment on the allegations, citing the pending litigation, but union officials have defended the training.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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