Prosecutors Say Defendant in 2008 Crash Case Admits Drivers Were Racing

Eight people died after a car hit a group of people watching an illegal race in Prince George's County on February 16, 2008. A grand jury today indicted two men in connection with the tragedy.
By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One of the two young men charged with causing an accident that killed eight people last year on a Prince George's County highway admitted to police that he and his co-defendant were street racing when the crash occurred, according to prosecutors.

Tavon Taylor, 19, told investigators that he and Darren Jamar Bullock, 21, had been at a home in the Waldorf area where a band was practicing. Bullock asked him "four or five times" if he wanted to race, Taylor said, according to a transcript of a police interview filed with the Circuit Court.

Taylor quoted Bullock as taunting him: "Come on, race me! Race that slow [expletive] Marquis!"

Bullock has told relatives he was driving the speed limit at the time of the crash Feb. 16, 2008. The statements attributed to Taylor are the first description from either defendant of the race that prosecutors allege was underway.

Taylor said that several hours after the taunts, about 3 a.m., he was in his Mercury Marquis at a red light on Indian Head Highway, and Bullock was behind the wheel of his Crown Victoria.

"What happens when the light turns green?" a Charles County sheriff's investigator asked.

"We go," Taylor replied.

The investigator asked Taylor what he meant.

"I pushed the accelerator to the floor and we start racing," Taylor replied. "We was pretty even and Darren started pulling away."

About a half-mile down the road, Taylor said, he saw "a lot of smoke" from Bullock's car. According to police, Bullock had plowed into a group of spectators gathered to watch a separate illegal street race.

Taylor and Bullock, both of Waldorf, have each been indicted on eight counts of vehicular manslaughter, as well as on charges of reckless driving and engaging in a speed contest.

Taylor's attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, alleged in court papers that Taylor gave the July 29 statement after being subjected to "intense pressure, false promises, duress and coercion." Gordon has filed a motion asking a judge to rule the statement inadmissible.

One investigator told Taylor he had to sign the statement "if he wants to get out of this mess," the motion alleges. The transcript is written by an investigator, and each page is signed by Taylor.

In court papers, Assistant State's Attorney Michael R. Pearson repudiated the allegation of coercion. Pearson wrote that Taylor was asked if he was promised anything in return for the statement.

Taylor's response was, "No sir -- I had to tell the truth," Pearson wrote.

Bullock's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Janet Hart, said, "Once the case is fully and fairly litigated, we are confident our client will be vindicated."

Circuit Judge Michael P. Whalen will consider Gordon's motion and other issues March 25. Taylor is to go on trial May 4. Bullock's trial is set for July 20.

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