Police arrest ‘occupant’ of car that led officer on fatal I-95 chase
By Matt Zapotoskyand Peter Hermann,
Police on Tuesday arrested a man who they said was an “occupant” of the Acura that a Prince George’s County officer had been pursuing when he crashed and was killed on Interstate 95, authorities said.
The man, who is 24 and lives in the District, was taken into custody in Southeast Washington early Tuesday after officers spotted him getting into the Acura, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case. He told detectives that he had been a passenger in the car during the chase that killed Officer Adrian Morris, 23, the officials said.
The man was charged in connection with possessing a stolen car, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Prince George’s police spokeswoman Julie Parker said authorities did not release the man’s name Tuesday because it could “compromise our efforts to identify and apprehend” another man who authorities think was in the car.
Police said previously that the pursuit that killed Morris started when he and another officer, Michael Risher, were at a Shell gas station on Sandy Spring Road in the Laurel area about noon Monday. The officers were investigating a report that two men had tried unsuccessfully to get into a customer’s vehicle and then fled in an Acura, police said.
As the officers were talking to witnesses, police said, a gas station employee spotted what appeared to be the Acura returning to the scene. Morris and Risher got in their police cruiser and gave chase, police said.
On Interstate 95, near Route 212, the officers caught up to the Acura and began to relay license plate and other information about it to a dispatcher. Law enforcement officials who declined to be identified said that a supervisor broke into the conversation, saying: “We are not chasing, correct?” That warning came moments too late.
Morris, who was driving, lost control of the cruiser and crashed in a ravine, police said.
Morris was ejected and fatally injured, police said. Risher was hospitalized but was released later the same day.
In September, the Prince George’s County Police Department toughened its chase policies, limiting pursuits to suspects involved in just four crimes: homicides, shootings in which someone was hit, armed robberies and armed carjackings. By those standards, Morris seems to have violated policy and the supervisor acted appropriately, a law enforcement official said.
Police on Tuesday said they were working to determine how fast Morris was driving. They said that the investigation indicated that there was no contact between the police car and the Acura before the crash. They said detectives think that Morris was not wearing a seat belt but that Risher was belted.
The incident shocked Morris’s colleagues, who remembered him as an officer who took pride in his job. Morris, a 2 1 / 2-year member of the force, was a former Police Explorer who dreamed of one day helping run the program for young people considering a career in law enforcement, colleagues said. Friends lovingly called him “munchkin” because he was small in stature.
“He was a little man on a big campus, and he was going to be the big man on campus one day,” said Kenneth Hibbert, who mentored Morris in the Police Explorers program.
An officer stationed outside Morris’s family home in Laurel turned away a reporter Tuesday.
After the I-95 crash, the Acura kept going, sparking an intense hunt for it and its occupants. Police released surveillance footage from the Shell station — which a law enforcement official said might show the Acura’s other occupant.
About 3 a.m. Tuesday, officers spotted the Acura parked in the 4900 block of St. Louis Street SE, off Benning Road and south of East Capitol Street, said Officer Anthony Clay, a D.C. police spokesman. According to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case, the officers waited for someone to return to the car — which had been reported stolen earlier this week — then took the man into custody. Law enforcement officials said that detectives were still probing the man’s assertion that he had been a passenger in the car during the chase.