Racing deaths charges

Two men indicted on eight vehicular manslaughter counts

July 30, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun Reporter

UPPER MARLBORO - Two men have been indicted in the deaths of eight people who had gathered to watch an early-morning drag race on an isolated road in Prince George's County, an accident that highlighted the popular pastime in that area and sent authorities scrambling for new ways to curb the illegal activity.

Darren Bullock, 20, and Tavon Taylor, 18, both of Waldorf, were charged yesterday with eight counts of vehicular manslaughter, as well as reckless driving and street racing, in the Feb. 16 crash.

Police initially did not believe either to be part of the racing, but prosecutors said yesterday that they had been racing each other along Route 210 in Accokeek.

Bullock is expected to surrender to police as early as today, and he will likely face a bond hearing by the end of the week. An arrest warrant has also been issued for Taylor.

Police have said that Bullock, driving a white Crown Victoria, rammed into a crowd that stood in a cloud of smoke in the dark road about 3 a.m. The racing fans were in the road watching two other cars compete and were hit from behind.

Eight were killed, and eight others were injured.

Officials from the state's attorney's office are releasing few details about the case. Prosecutors declined yesterday to say whether Taylor's car struck anyone.

Authorities believe that Bullock and Taylor were driving about 110 mph with their headlights off at the time of the accident, said a county official with knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bullock and Taylor weren't part of the initial race that people had come to watch, prosecutors say.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said minor charges might eventually be filed against the drivers in the race that brought the fans into the road, but that the cause of the deaths was the higher priority.

"From my perspective, certainly the deaths were the pivotal part and the main focus of the investigation," Ivey said.

Bullock was not injured in the incident. He has recently been sentenced to 32 hours of community service for an unrelated May 27 citation for driving with a suspended license.

Bullock's lawyer, William C. Brennan Jr., declined to comment on the case. Taylor's lawyer could not be determined.

Ivey said authorities interviewed about 80 people and used surveillance photos taken from a nearby building to reconstruct what happened.

"The photos from the Beretta factory were pivotal, along with the interviews of the people who were there," Ivey said.

The accident occurred about 11 miles southeast of Washington along a stretch of four-lane, divided highway with no traffic lights. One onlooker told The Sun that about 150 people had gathered to watch the races, filling parking lots on both sides of the highway.

Several neighbors have previously said car races are frequent at all times of year and, when police come to break them up, the drivers and fans move down the road.

Yesterday, Ivey acknowledged the thriving racing subculture.

"I think there is certainly an enormous attachment to street racing in Southern Maryland that I hadn't realized was there. And I do think it's a major problem," Ivey said. "It's very dangerous, and, as we saw in this case, can be very tragic."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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