Someone in the car noticed that police were following them, officials said, and the small sedan sped south down Connecticut Avenue, heading for the District. Officers flipped on their lights and sirens and pursued the vehicle.
At Chevy Chase Circle, the Toyota spun out of control, smacked into a tree and caught fire, police said. Officers pulled the driver and front-seat passenger out. One of the officers used his tactical baton to smash out a back window. Others sprayed the roaring flames with small fire extinguishers. But it was too late for the two in the back.
Emanuel Nelson, 16, and Kyree Nelson, 14, died in their seats, according to police accounts and Nikita Nelson.
Hours later, at 6 a.m. Friday, officers knocked on Nikita Nelson’s front door and asked if the cousins lived there. Assuming that they were in trouble, she recalled, she went to get them. But their beds were empty.
“I still don’t believe it,” she said from her home Friday. “I really don’t believe it.”
The car was stolen in Montgomery a week ago, and police officials would not say if they know who took it or whether all the teenagers inside knew it was stolen.
Authorities did not say how fast the car was traveling when it crashed, only that it was above the 30 mph speed limit.
Police officials said the officers involved appear to have followed proper procedures during the pursuit, despite its tragic end. They said a standard review will be conducted.
Police identified the driver as Reynard Osman, 16, who lives in the District. He was being treated at a hospital for injuries that were life-threatening, and no charges had been filed in the case as of Friday evening. The front-seat passenger, Reeco Richardson, 18, also of the District, suffered less-serious injuries. Family members of the two could not be reached to comment.
As word about the crash spread Friday, friends and relatives gathered at Nelson’s home, flipping through family photos, crying and remembering the cousins.
Emanuel, a 10th-grader at Coolidge High School, went by the nickname ManMan. He played junior varsity football and was slated to start on the varsity squad next year. He dreamed of playing football at Penn State University and becoming a veterinarian.
His mother, Nikita, said she also cared for his cousin Kyree, who lived in the home and was enrolled at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School. Kyree played soccer and was known to pull pranks on family members. His nickname was Thumb because he had sucked his thumb for so long.
“We tried everything to get him to stop. Hot sauce, putting something on his gums,” said his mother, Latrice Nelson.