Postal worker hit by police cruiser in Pr. George's dies

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Prince George's County police officer driving to work on Tuesday struck and killed a mail handler as the handler tried to cross a road in the Landover area, authorities said.

Ronald Burgess, 62, of the District was walking across Garrett A. Morgan Boulevard when he was struck by a police officer traveling from the area of FedEx Field toward Central Avenue about 6:20 a.m., authorities said. Maj. Andrew Ellis, a Prince George's County police spokesman, said Burgess was about 100 feet from the intersection, wearing dark work clothes and not in a crosswalk when he was struck.

"There's nothing to indicate, at least initially, that the officer was at fault," Ellis said. "It appears it was a tragic accident."

Burgess was taken to a hospital, where he died about 2 p.m., according to police and family members. The officer, who was in uniform and in his marked cruiser during the crash, was not hurt, authorities said.

Nia Robinson, 38, Burgess's daughter, said she questions the police account. She said her father -- who was on his way to work at the U.S. Postal Service's Southern Maryland Processing and Distribution Center on Edgeworth Drive -- suffered "severe" injuries that suggest the officer might have been traveling faster than the 35 mph speed limit. Her father had brain contusions, a skull fracture, broken ribs and punctured lungs, she said.

"So with extensive injuries like that, [the officer] was driving too fast," she said.

Ellis said initial evidence does not indicate speeding. The impact was not strong enough to cause the cruiser's airbags to deploy or to trigger the cruiser's in-car camera or event-data recorder, he said. The cruiser's grill was knocked loose and the driver's side of the windshield was damaged. But the damage was lower on the windshield, which is usually consistent with a slower-speed crash, he said.

"I can tell you that somebody running in front of a vehicle that's traveling 35 miles an hour, the injuries are going to be substantial," Ellis said.

Ellis said police had at least one witness, who said the officer was approaching a red light at the intersection of Morgan Boulevard and Central Avenue when the crash occurred. Ellis said "logic would dictate that he wasn't going that fast if he was approaching or coming up on a red light." The investigation is ongoing, Ellis said.

Robinson said her father, who was also a minister, had worked for the post office for more than two decades. He regularly took Metro from his home in the District to the Morgan Boulevard station, then walked the rest of the way to the post office facility, she said.

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