Waldorf man to get 15 years in illegal street race that killed 8 in Accokeek

Eight people are dead and at least five injured after a car hits a group of people watching an illegal race in Prince George's County.
By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Waldorf man pleaded guilty Friday to eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, admitting that he caused the car crash in Accokeek nearly two years ago that killed eight people at an illegal street race.

Under the terms of his plea agreement with Prince George's County prosecutors, Darren J. Bullock, 22, will be sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised probation. Circuit Court Judge Michael Whalen scheduled sentencing for March 1.

Bullock, dressed in a black sweater and dark pants, spoke little during the brief hearing in the courthouse in Upper Marlboro. The speed and officious nature of the hearing belied the anguish caused by the accident on a dark rural highway in February 2008.

The crash made national headlines and drew attention to the secretive world of illegal street racing, a subculture that has thrived for decades in parts of the Washington area, including Prince George's and Charles counties. A statement of facts read in court Friday indicated that two races were held that night and that Bullock plowed into spectators from a previous race.

Near the end of Friday's hearing, Whalen asked Bullock, "Are you pleading guilty to eight counts of vehicular manslaughter because you are in fact guilty of these counts and no other reason?"

Bullock replied, "Yes."

Bullock remains free on bond pending his sentencing. Outside the courtroom, Bullock's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Janet Hart, said, "Mr. Bullock feels so sorry for all that's happened."

Canice Proctor, mother of a teenage boy who was watching a race when he was struck by Bullock and seriously injured, told reporters after the hearing that the incident "should be a lesson for the adults that you can't do this street racing."

Her son, Gregory Johnson, who was 15 at the time of the accident, sustained injuries so serious that he cannot play sports anymore, Proctor said. Still, Proctor said, she held no ill will toward Bullock or Tavon Taylor, 20, the sole codefendant.

"Accidents happen every day," Proctor said.

State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said that the victims' relatives do not agree on the severity of the punishment for Bullock. "There are going to be people who feel it should be more; there are going to be people who feel it should be less," Ivey said of the prison time.

Bullock's plea agreement does not require him to testify against Taylor, 20, who is scheduled to go on trial on identical manslaughter charges Monday. Prosecutors and police allege that Bullock was racing Taylor when Bullock's vehicle slammed into the victims.

According to court papers filed by prosecutors, Taylor admitted to police that he was racing Bullock the night of the accident. In a pretrial hearing last March, Taylor accused police of fabricating his statement. Police denied the allegation, and Whalen turned away a defense motion to throw out the statement on the grounds that it was obtained improperly.

Authorities have said two unrelated street races led to the accident, and a statement of facts read into the court record by Assistant State's Attorney Wes Adams supports that scenario.

Adams said Bullock was driving a white Crown Victoria that, according to witnesses, was traveling between 80 and 100 mph when it struck the victims. They had wandered onto the road after watching an unrelated illegal street race on Route 210 in Accokeek about 3 a.m. Feb. 16, 2008.

Bullock was heading southbound on Route 210, trailed by a dark green Mercury Marquis, which prosecutors allege was driven by Taylor.

Spectators who had watched two other drivers take off in the previous race began to wander onto the road, Adams said. The Mercury Marquis was behind the Crown Victoria by 10 to 65 feet. The Marquis stopped before making contact with spectators, Adams said.

The victims suffered blunt-force crushing injuries from being struck by the Crown Victoria, Adams said. Some of the victims were further injured when they flew into the air and slammed against the car's hood or smashed onto the ground, Adams said.

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