Monday, February 25, 2008

Officer Is Indicted in Deadly Pileup on Beltway

The Prince George's County police officer whose pursuit of a motorcyclist on the Capital Beltway in May led to a fatal seven-car pileup has been indicted on two counts of vehicular manslaughter, authorities announced yesterday.

Officer Scott Campbell, 47, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of causing the deaths of two people in the crash on the Beltway's inner loop near Forestville. The wreck, one of the most horrific on the Beltway in recent memory, killed two friends, Kevin McCarter, 49, of Fort Washington and Sidney Clanton, 50, of Buffalo, and injured 15 others.

A grand jury heard evidence "regarding Officer Campbell's conduct leading up to the accident," said State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey. "That convinced them that there may have been criminal wrongdoing."

Ivey did not elaborate, but several law enforcement sources have said that Campbell did not call the chase in to dispatchers, in apparent violation of the police department's policy on high-speed pursuits. A camera in his police cruiser recorded speeds of more than 120 mph as he drove briefly onto the shoulder and back onto the highway in pursuit of the motorcyclist, they said.

The indictment of an officer in connection with a police chase is extremely rare. Such cases more often lead to civil lawsuits against police departments or prosecution of fleeing motorists, said attorneys for people who have alleged police misconduct.

"I haven't ever heard of that happening," Greg Lattimer, a Washington-based lawyer, said of the indictment. "I find that very surprising, when charges have not been filed when clearly people have been shot to death. But we welcome any indication that police officers involved in questionable conduct will be held accountable."

Since taking office in 2002, Ivey has attempted to prosecute five police officers, including Campbell. He has obtained four indictments and one conviction.

Keith A. Washington, a former police corporal, is on trial in Upper Marlboro for shooting two furniture deliverymen, one fatally, at his home in Accokeek.

A home phone number for Campbell could not be found late yesterday, and it was unclear whether he had retained an attorney. Ivey said the officer is not in custody.

Vince Canales, president of the Prince George's police union, said the union will play a "support role" in the case, adding that the officer should not be presumed guilty. "The only thing I can say is that this is a tragedy for everyone involved, including Scott Campbell and his family," Canales said.

The incident began about 7 p.m. May 30, when Campbell, a seven-year veteran of the department on routine patrol, began chasing a speeding motorcycle near the Richie-Marlboro exit on the Beltway's outer loop.

Campbell's police cruiser slammed into McCarter and Clanton's sport-utility vehicle. The SUV flew over the guardrail and into traffic on the Beltway's inner loop, causing a series of crashes that closed down all lanes for almost five hours.

Under department policy, officers may engage in high-speed pursuits only if there is probable cause that the suspect used or threatened physical force or was involved in a hit-and-run accident resulting in serious injury or death.

Police spokeswoman Sharon Taylor declined to comment about the police investigation, which was passed to the state's attorney's office in October. Taylor said that the police department had worked hand in hand with Ivey's office and that officials "have faith in the process."

The motorcyclist fled after the crash, but a spokesman for Ivey's office said yesterday that investigators had interviewed the motorcyclist and about 20 other people. No charges have been filed against the motorcyclist or any other driver involved in the crash.

Ivey said the grand jury reviewed "reconstruction reports, physical evidence and testimony."

"It certainly is a tragedy anytime there's a loss of life in a traffic situation," he said. "Two men died on the way to a jazz concert."

Wow. A cop who has to take some responsibility for his actions.


Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home