The FBI investigating Anne Arundel County police handling of a fatal automobile accident allegedly caused by reckless driving of a former county policemen.
In the accident last month, which killed a young Hyattsville woman, a county police officer declined to arrest Gary Lee Harris, 33, who served in the department from 1972 to 1975, because he knew Harris and therefore believed he had a conflict of interest.
Harris has since been charged by the Anne Arundel County state's attorney with vehicular manslaughter and six lesser charges.
FBI officials said yesterday their investigation was being completed and would soon be forwarded to the Justice Department's civil rights division. According to special Agent Lane Bonner, the Bureau is investigating "allegations that various individuals involved in the accident were denied due process by lack of appropriate action by police."
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Maxwell Frye called the FBI investigation unwarranted and said it is based on "skimpy information."
"I think the officer did what he thought was proper," Frye said.
Anne Arundel State's Attorney Warren Duckett also criticized the FBI investigation of the county police, saving it "is without foundation at all."
The officer who recognized Harris and declined to arrest him on the scene, David A. Beardon, has said Harris appeared to have been drinking; that was noted on the police report. Among the lesser charges brought by the state's attorney's office against Harris was driving while his ability was impaired by alcohol, a lesser charge than drunken driving.
At the time of the accident Harris was an off-duty Laurel City police officer. Harris resigned from the Laurel force several weeks ago rather than face a police trial board on administrative charges connected with the accident. His lawyer said Harris did not believe he would get a fair hearing.
Anne Arundel prosecutor Duckett said yesterday he has issued a subpoena to the Laurel police department to obtain results of an internal investigation that was conducted but never released.
Lawyers for the woman killed in the accident, Theresa Lynn Dugan, 22, said yesterday they were pleased that the FBI is looking into the case. They said they would continue their own imvestigation to determine if there was a possibility of taking any civil action.
Dugan was a passenger in a car driven by her finance, William M. Fallica, last Sept. 15. As Fallica started to turn from Maryland Rte. 198 into the Maryland City Plaza parking lot in Laurel, Harris' car, which he was allegedly operating after dark without lights, swerved down the road, side swiped another automobile and slammed broadside into Fallica's car, police said.
Moments after the accident, Anne Arundel Police arrived at the scene and discovered that the driver of the other car was Harris, who had once worked on the Anne Arundel force. Although he told officers that he had been drinking, Harris was not given a Breathalyzer test to determine if he was intoxicated.
Sources said that county prosecutors determined that Harris had been drinking at a bar shortly before the incident. According to sources, Harris apparently entered the Towne Tavern in Laurel with a group of softball players in the early evening on the night of the crash.
According to Joseph McMahill, owner of the tavern, the bartender that night was Steve Stuckey, who has since left the country.
Reached yesterday by The Washington Post in England, Stuckey -- who said he was a friend of Harris -- said Harris entered the tavern and had two or three beers. Stuckey said Harris got into several arguments with some of the others in the bar and then left.
Stuckey recalled that Harris seemed to him to be "somewhat intoxicated."