Md. trooper's firing sought by kin of 2006 crash victim

Half-brother says policeman threw him to ground after arrest

October 17, 2008|By Joe Burris | Joe Burris,joseph.burris@baltsun.com

A relative of a man who died after being struck by a state police cruiser in 2006 is accusing the trooper who was driving the car of assaulting him.

Joseph Blizzard, whose half-brother Randy Rakes was struck and killed by a cruiser driven by Trooper First Class Dale Derr, of the Westminster Barracks, has asked Gov. Martin O'Malley to fire Derr.

Blizzard, 29, of Finksburg, asserts that after he was arrested Sunday in Carroll County, Derr threw him to the ground. Derr came to the arrest scene only after hearing Blizzard's name mentioned on the police radio and "mockingly" told Blizzard that he was the person who had "killed Randy Rakes," states a letter sent to O'Malley by Blizzard's lawyer.

The lawyer, David Ellin, said Blizzard was arrested at a friend's house and was charged with forging checks. He said that Blizzard sustained a broken thumb after being thrown to the ground.

Reached yesterday by telephone, Derr declined to comment and referred all inquiries to the state police Westminster Barracks.

Christine Hansen, deputy press secretary for the governor's office, said that O'Malley had yet to receive the letter from Ellin. She referred all inquiries to the Maryland State Police.

Greg Shipley, Maryland State Police spokesman, said the agency has received the complaint. "We will thoroughly investigate the complaint to determine what occurred, and, if warranted, we will certainly take appropriate action," Shipley said.

Rakes, 38, had been walking along Route 140 with a friend near midnight Nov. 28, 2006, when the two decided to cross the highway, according to a state police crash report. Derr was driving more than 80 mph, or more than 30 mph above the speed limit, when his cruiser hit Rakes, according to the report.

The report attributed the accident to two primary factors: Derr's exceeding the speed limit and Rakes' failure to yield the right of way to the cruiser as he crossed the highway.

Rakes' family has filed a multimillion-dollar civil suit against Derr and the state police, claiming Derr "negligently and recklessly" failed to recognize Rakes' presence in the road, court records say.

Ellin's letter to O'Malley gives an account of events surrounding Blizzard's arrest and requests the "immediate termination" of Derr.

"It is believed that these alleged events are corroborated by statements that have been made to the Westminster Barrack commander, and the State Police Internal Affairs Unit is conducting an investigation of this matter," the letter states.

"However, given Trooper Derr's heinous actions and obvious temper, my client feels that Trooper Derr is volatile and likely to cause further harm, given his position of authority."

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