INDIAN HEAD HIGHWAY DEATHS
Men Charged in Race Lied, Prosecutors Say
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Two Southern Maryland men who were charged last week with engaging in an illegal street race that killed eight people deceived investigators, and one suspect urged witnesses to "tell the same lie," Prince George's County prosecutors said yesterday.
The allegations surfaced during bond hearings for Darren Jamar Bullock, 21, and Tavon J. Taylor, 18, both of Waldorf, who have spent several days in jail since the indictments against them were announced a week ago.
They are accused of racing against each other about 3 a.m. Feb. 16 on Indian Head Highway and running into a crowd of people watching another illegal race on the dark rural road in Prince George's. Each is charged with eight counts of vehicular manslaughter, as well as reckless driving and racing. Another eight people were injured in the crash, prosecutors said.
Authorities allege that Bullock was racing his 1999 Ford Crown Victoria against a Mercury Marquis driven by Taylor when Bullock plowed into a crowd on the highway. Authorities have declined to say whether they believe Taylor hit anybody with his vehicle.
A surveillance camera at a nearby Beretta gun factory caught the two drivers speeding with their cars' headlights off a quarter-mile from the crash site, according to a source close to the investigation. The cars were moving as fast as 110 mph, said the source, who spoke anonymously because the case is ongoing. Investigators were able to calculate the speed of the cars by comparing their images to fixed objects, such as light poles.
During Taylor's bond hearing yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney Michael D. Wallace said Taylor "repeatedly deceived" police investigators and organized witnesses to lie to the grand jury investigating the matter.
Taylor's attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, said in court that police investigators "coerced" statements from his client, but he did not elaborate.
In an interview after the hearing, Gordon denied that Taylor lied to police or tried to organize witnesses to lie. "My client couldn't organize anything," Gordon said. "He's 18 years old."
Asked whether the allegation that Taylor coached witnesses might lead to further charges, State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said after the hearing, "We're taking a look at that." Ivey declined to discuss the matter further, saying court rules prohibit him from talking in detail about evidence.
During Bullock's bond hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Michael Pearson said Bullock "deceived and misled" investigators.
Bullock's defense attorney, John M. McKenna, did not respond to the allegation during the hearing. In an interview later, McKenna said, "Mr. Bullock continues to assert his innocence and has done nothing but cooperate with authorities to the best of his ability." Bullock works at a restaurant, McKenna said.
During the bond hearings, Gordon and McKenna argued that their clients had no intent to harm anyone and do not pose flight risks. Gordon said he has seen no evidence indicating Taylor hit any of the victims.
Circuit Judge William D. Missouri set bond at $200,000 for Bullock and $120,000 for Taylor.
Missouri ordered that Bullock abide by whatever restrictions are imposed by pretrial services officials and that his movements be monitored electronically, but set no restrictions on Taylor.
Taylor's attorney and relatives said the young man plans to enroll at Delaware State University this month.
Taylor's mother is a D.C. corrections officer, and one of his aunts, Kimberly Taylor, is a veteran D.C. police sergeant. "He's been taught to respect the law and uphold the law," Kimberly Taylor said.
Right after the crash, Bullock told family members he was driving the speed limit when he came upon the crowd standing in the middle of the road in Accokeek. But at last week's news conference, Ivey said surveillance photos and witness accounts led police to conclude that Bullock was racing.
Bullock's relatives declined to comment yesterday.