Record Says Suspect Sped Toward Officer

By Henri E. Cauvin and Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The man accused of killing a Prince George's County police officer "intentionally accelerated" a pickup truck toward the officer and "ran him over," and a passenger in the truck was shot, according to charging documents released yesterday.

The documents, made public a day after suspect Ronnie L. White, 19, was apparently strangled in his county jail cell, provide a detailed account of the Friday morning encounter in Laurel that took the life of Cpl. Richard S. Findley, 39.

White was charged with first-degree murder about 8 that night and was found unresponsive in his cell about 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

A search of court records yesterday provided a more extensive picture of White's criminal history, revealing that last year he served less than half of a six-month sentence for gun possession.

White entered the Howard County Detention Center on Sept. 7 and was extradited to Fairfax County on Dec. 3. After four days in a Fairfax jail, he posted bond for $3,000.

There were 12 charges against him in Fairfax, including eight for grand larceny, three for failure to pay or return goods, and a probation violation, Sgt. Kevin Thornhill said. The disposition of those charges was unclear.

Court records show that in 2006, White was charged with first-degree assault and armed robbery; the case was dropped. Last year, he pleaded guilty to drug possession.

In December 2006, when Howard police found him and a loaded 9mm pistol in a car in Columbia, White said that the gun was his and that he had a good reason for carrying it, according to court records.

The gun was "for protection," he told a Howard police officer. A lot of people were "after" him, said White, who was living in Southeast Washington at the time.

Who exactly was after him is unclear. But it would not be his last encounter with police.

In March 2007, he and another man were arrested in Laurel after Prince George's police stopped the car they were in and found about 15 baggies of crack cocaine as well as several grams of marijuana. Howard also had an open warrant for a robbery charge.

White stayed in jail until September, when he pleaded guilty to one of the drug charges. He was given a suspended sentence and placed on probation, court records show. He also pleaded guilty to a handgun charge in the Howard case.

When Findley approached the pickup Friday afternoon, White was on probation and faced the prospect of being sent back to jail.

According to the charging documents filed by Detective Thomas K. Lancaster, a passenger in the truck identified White as the driver. The passenger, Gerald Wright, was shot during the incident, documents show. He has not been charged.

The documents do not indicate who shot Wright but say that Findley fired several rounds as the Ford F-150, described in previous reports as a Chevrolet Silverado, sped toward him.

According to Lancaster's account, Findley and Cpl. Kelvin Scruggs, part of a team that looks for car thieves and other violent criminals, saw two men get into the truck, which had stolen Virginia tags, in the parking lot of a Laurel area apartment complex.

Findley turned on his emergency lights and pulled his cruiser in front of the truck to prevent it from leaving the lot, Lancaster wrote. Findley left his car and walked toward the front of the truck while Scruggs approached the truck from the rear.

Findley and Scruggs were in plain clothes, but both were displaying their police badges, Lancaster wrote.

"At this point," he wrote, "the driver of the F-150 intentionally accelerated toward Cpl. Findley and ran him over. Cpl. Findley discharged his issued firearm and several rounds took effect in the hood and windshield of the vehicle. The two men fled the scene in the F-150 and escaped."

Officers found White and Wright in a nearby apartment, the charging documents say.

Two civilian witnesses working in the area identified White and Wright from photo arrays as the two men they saw running from the pickup.

Staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.

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