Auxiliary officer's cruiser struck

Lucas, hurt in '05, is not injured in incident Tuesday

June 26, 2008|By Tyeesha Dixon | Tyeesha Dixon,Sun reporter

On Tuesday afternoon, Petrus Lucas was helping a stranded motorist on U.S. 40 in Howard County, a routine task for a police auxiliary officer.

While Lucas aided the driver of a vehicle stopped in the fast lane near U.S. 29, a minivan struck his cruiser. Lucas, 24, was not injured, but it was an all too familiar scene.

In 2005, about three miles away on the same roadway, Lucas was helping direct traffic around an accident when he was struck by an SUV. The injuries he suffered resulted in his left leg being amputated below the knee.

After a lengthy rehabilitation, Lucas resumed work as an auxiliary officer last year.

"He says that he is fine following [Tuesday's] incident and is happy to be volunteering as an auxiliary officer again," police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said yesterday, adding that Lucas declined to be interviewed about the crash.

The driver of the Ford Aerostar van, Scott Anthony Serrano, 17, of the 3200 block of Normandy Woods Drive in Ellicott City, was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision and negligent driving. A passenger, whose name police did not release yesterday, was taken to Howard County General Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Llewellyn said the crash is under investigation and that "procedure was followed" for roadside assistance by an officer.

"We have every reason to believe that the driver was at fault and was negligent, which is what caused the collision," Llewellyn said.

Auxiliary officers are volunteers who work at least 16 hours a month, performing duties such as responding to calls about abandoned cars, courier tasks, parking enforcement and other nonemergency activities.

Lucas started volunteering in 2003 and has worked more than 1,200 hours, according to the Police Department. A 2002 graduate of River Hill High School, Lucas was named the department's Auxiliary Officer of the Year for 2007.

On the night before Thanksgiving in 2005, a few days after he passed the physical test to enter Howard County's police academy, Lucas was struck by a Chevrolet Blazer while assisting with an accident on U.S. 40 at Pebble Beach Drive in Ellicott City. His legs were shattered when he was thrown against his car. He was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where doctors amputated his lower left leg.

In the wake of the accident, Lucas, who now wears a prosthetic leg, played a key role in passage of state legislation that provides workers compensation for Howard County auxiliary officers who are injured in the line of duty. Previously, the county's insurance policy for auxiliary officers was limited in reimbursement for lost limbs.

Tuesday's crash was the latest roadside incident involving a Howard County officer. Just over a year ago, Cpl. Scott Wheeler was working speed patrol when he was hit by a speeding car on Route 32 near Interstate 95. Wheeler died two days later.

And in February, a drunken driver nearly hit Officer Frank Moran while he was arresting another drunken driver on Route 175. Moran jumped onto the roof of his car to avoid being hit.

Llewellyn said that while traffic-related police duties are dangerous, officers, including auxiliary members, receive adequate training.

"While any job that puts you in a roadway comes with some risk, the auxiliary officers are very well trained and prepared to ensure their safety," she said.

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