Suspects in crash that killed man held without bond

Two drove away during drug stop in Northwest Baltimore, police say

  • Brent Matthews
Brent Matthews (City police, handout photo )
April 29, 2010|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

Two men accused of fleeing police and crashing into a vehicle carrying two elderly people, killing one of them, were being held without bond and are scheduled to appear at a bail review hearing Thursday afternoon.

Umar Burley, 29, and Brent Matthews, 26, were arrested Wednesday afternoon in Northwest Baltimore after crashing into a Chrevolet Monte Carlo driven by 86-year-old Elbert Davis, the father of a city police officer. Davis had a heart attack and later died.

Police say plainclothes detectives attempting to arrest the two men did not initiate a chase, which would be against department policies, but instead drove in the general direction that the suspects had fled. They came upon the crash -- a distance of eight-tenths of a mile that includes at least three stop signs -- saw Burley and Matthews exiting the vehicle and were able to apprehend them at the scene.

Both men have prior records. Matthews appears to have received six years in federal prison on a 1998 conviction of gun possession by a convicted felon. He was sent back to prison for seven months in 2007 for violating his federal probation. Burley, meanwhile, has twice been charged with handgun violations that were later dropped and has three drug convictions, according to court records.

According to charging documents, police say they were conducting surveillance at the Seton Park apartments in Howard Park, an "area regularly used as a meet location to distribute narcotics," when they saw Matthews climb into Burley's Acura carrying cash in his left hand.

Detective Wayne E. Jenkins then pulled his unmarked vehicle in front of the Acura, and a second detective, Sean Suiter, pulled behind it with his emergency lights activated, according to charging documents. Jenkins and Detective Ryan Guinn approached with their badges displayed and ordered the men to show their hands, records show.

Burley was able to maneuver his Acura away from the scene without striking the police vehicles, and fled eastbound on Belle Avenue, according to court records.

The detectives said they traveled in the direction of Burley's vehicle and saw the crash scene. The Acura was smoking and heavily damaged and was resting against a fire hydrant that was gushing water. Davis' Monte Carlo had been pushed through hedges and onto the front yard of a home.

They saw the suspects exit the Acura and chased them down. The officers said they recovered 32 grams of suspected heroin on the passenger side of the floor. A digital scale was also recovered from the floor.

Joseph Caldwell, 65, was making breakfast when he heard the crash, which shook his house. He looked out the window and saw plainclothes officers chasing two suspects on foot.

When he moved to the front of the house, he saw an elderly couple in a badly damaged vehicle that had crashed into his front deck. The woman, identified in court records as 81-year-old Phosa Cain, was crying for help; Davis was bleeding from the head.

"I told them, 'Hold on, help is coming,'" Caldwell said. "To hear he didn't make it, it don't make no sense."

Davis was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was later pronounced dead. Cain was listed in serious condition Wednesday. Burley was briefly taken to Sinai Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and was released.

Police confirmed that Davis is the father of a city officer assigned to the patrol division, whose name they declined to release.

Joyce Fuller, 62, owns the home that was struck by the vehicle and spoke to reporters as public works employees shut off a fire hydrant that had been gushing water for more than five hours. She said she was thankful that the damage to her home wasn't worse, but had the man who died in her thoughts.

"I'd like to take all of these drug dealers and put them in a cargo plane and take them to Iraq," she said. "That couple hadn't done anything. It's just so unfair."

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