Pr. George's Corporal Either Sent or Got Text Before Crash, AT& T Testifies

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cellphone records show that the Prince George's County police corporal involved in an accident last year that killed a University of Maryland student either sent or received a text message in the moments before the collision, according to testimony Tuesday in the officer's civil trial.

But witness Eric Ridenour, a sales manager for AT&T, the service provider for Cpl. Mario Chavez's cellphone, was not asked and did not say whether the records indicated whether Chavez sent the text or opened one that was sent to him.

Chavez testified on the second day of civil trial in Prince George's Circuit Court that he did not use his cellphone in the minutes before the crash, which occurred at 7:12 a.m. Dec. 10.

Police say the officer was traveling 50 mph, twice the speed limit, when his cruiser collided with a car in Bowie, killing Brian Gray, 20. He was fined for speeding and paid a $260 fine last month.

The family of Gray, who was headed to College Park for an exam when he was killed, is suing Chavez and the county. His mother, Mary Gray, was a few car lengths behind her son, driving a family friend to DeMatha High School, when the collision occurred.

The night before the crash, Chavez testified, he had accompanied a friend to a nightclub, where he drank three to five beers between 10 and 1 a.m. Chavez said he spent the night at his friend's home in New Carrollton and was driving to his home in Bowie to see his son, who turned 2 that day.

Gray had stopped at a stop sign and was starting to make a left turn when Chavez slammed into the driver's side of Gray's Chevrolet Beretta, according to trial testimony.

Chavez testified that his view of Gray's car was obstructed by shrubs and that he saw Gray's car a moment before the collision.

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