A Laurel city police officer whom police declined to charge after his involvement in a fatal automobile accident last month was charged by the Anne Arundel County state's attorney yesterday with vehicular manslaughter.
The officer, Gary Lee Harris, 33, could face up to three years in prison if convicted. He also was accused of driving while his ability was impaired by alcohol, a lesser charge than drunken driving.
Anne Arundel County police who investigated the Sept. 15 crash that killed 22-year-old Lynn Dugan of Hyattsville, declined to arrest Harris, a former member of the county police force and three-year veteran of the Laurel department.
The policeman who investigated the collision said he declined to make an arrest because he knew Harris and believed he had a conflict of interest.
Harris was off duty at the time.
Dugan was a passenger in a car driven by her fiance, William M. Fallica. As Fallica started a turn into Maryland Rte. 198 in Laurel, Harris' car, which he was operating after dark without lights, swerved down the road, sideswiped another automobile and slammed broadside into Fallica's car, police said.
Dugan was taken by helicopter to the shock trauma unit of the University Hospital in Baltimore, where she was pronounced dead an hour later. Fallica was treated at a local hospital and released.
Moments after the accident, Anne Arundel police arrived at the scene and discovered that the driver of the other car was an off-duty police officer who had once worked on the Anne Arundel force.
The police report filed later stated that Harris told officers he had been drinking before the accident. Harris was not given a breathalyzer test to determine if he was intoxicated.
The officer on the scene, David A. Beardon, has said "It looked like [Harris] had been drinking -- there was that certain look in his eyes." But Beardon said he was reluctant to arrest Harris in part because he knew him and felt that any action he took would constitute a "conflict of interest."
Sources said that county prosecutors, who began looking into the case after accounts of the accident were published by The Washington Post and other newspapers, determined that Harris had been drinking at a bar shortly before the incident. They also said a beer can was found in the wreck of his car.
State's Attorney Warren Duckett, who filed the charges against Harris yesterday, said without a breath test he did not have sufficient evidence to charge Harris with drunken driving.
Harris was charged with a total of seven traffic violations, including reckless and negligent driving.
Harris' attorney said his client would resign from the Laurel force rather than face a police trial board because he did not believe he could get a fair hearing.
Reached at his home yesterday and informed that charges had been brought against the officer involved in the accident, Dugan's father, Anthony Dugan said he was still bitter.
They . . . are trying to cover this up," he said. "You just want to make sure justice is done. I still think there is something else there." Officer Harris' attorney said that he had no comment on the accusation.
Maxwell Frye, chief of Anne Arundel County Police, said yesterday that he would look into the conduct of his officers who declined to arrest Harris or administer the breath test.
"After the smoke clears, we'll look into it and determine if the officer conducted the investigation as thoroughly and properly as he should have, or if there is something lacking in our department," Frye said.
Frye also said he is developing new procedures for Anne Arundel police officers investigating auto fatalities involving possible alcohol use.