Teen admits role in chase, crash

Youth drove van that was stolen into police car

July 15, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,Sun reporter

The teenager who drove a stolen minivan that crashed into an unmarked police car during a high-speed chase in Annapolis entered the equivalent of a guilty plea during a juvenile court hearing yesterday.

The 16-year-old boy, who was 15 at the time of the incident May 21, entered an admission before Anne Arundel County Master John F. Gunning to charges of second-degree assault, felony theft and fleeing in order to evade police. Gunning ordered the youth committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Services.

The teenager was high on PCP and driving the minivan belonging to the Department of the Navy when he fled from police, prosecutors said. He and two officers were injured in the crash.

The Anne Arundel County Police Department suspended the three county police officers involved in the chase and launched an investigation after a county councilman raised questions about their actions.

Sgt. John Gilmer, a county police spokesman, said yesterday that the incident remains under investigation but declined to say whether the three officers are being paid or whether they have been placed on administrative duty.

Officer O'Brien Atkinson, president of the county police union, could not be reached for comment yesterday but said previously that the suspension of the officers' police powers was "not typical" and was a result of "political pressure."

Prosecutor Brooke McKay said that police responded about 2:20 p.m. May 21 to a report of a male wandering around the park-and-ride lot on Riva Road near Harry S. Truman Parkway. After noticing a light blue Dodge Caravan in the lot with its lights on, then seeing the ignition had been tampered with and two 12-gauge shotgun shell casings on the floor, the officer called for backup.

Officers did not see the youth and two others get into the van more than an hour later, but they stood in front of the vehicle and shouted, "Police! Stop!" The minivan halted about 10 feet from the officers' unmarked car, then abruptly reversed. The officers followed the minivan as it left the lot, wove in and out of traffic and jumped a curb, McKay said.

The chase, which also drew another marked county car and city police, ended on Newtowne Drive when the minivan struck the unmarked county police cruiser, McKay said. The driver, who was accompanied by James Lorenzo Thomas Jr, 21, of Washington and Stephon Delorean Fortune, 18, of Camp Springs, ran away, but was soon arrested with PCP on him. Police also recovered a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun loaded with five rounds.

Ellen Duffy, the boy's defense attorney, said his behavior was the result of "neglect to the extreme" and "a child being raised in the streets."

Duffy said the boy's problems began at the end of 2003, when his grandmother died and the family house was foreclosed. His parents separated, his mother became addicted to drugs, and his father was not around. The youth went to live with an aunt who "had a mental breakdown," then to the Capitol Heights home of another aunt, who became his legal guardian in March, Duffy said.

The aunt did not attend yesterday's hearing despite Duffy's attempts to contact her.

The teenager is being held in the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County. Thomas and Fortune are facing charges of theft, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and possession of a rifle/shotgun unregistered.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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