Three District men were charged by Alexandria police with felony homicide and grand larceny yesterday after a Sunday night chase that ended when a stolen car smashed into another car, killing a 63-year-old Arlington man and seriously injuring his wife.
The accident occurred as D.C. police followed the stolen car in driving rain down Shirley Highway and onto Seminary Road. One man was arrested by Alexandria police at the scene, and two were taken into custody in the area later.
The dead man was identified as Adwin Green of 5717 S. First St., Arlington. He was taken to Alexandria Hospital, where he was pronounced dead yesterday at 12:11 a.m. His wife, Drue Martin Green, 65, was first taken to Alexandria Hospital and then flown to Fairfax Hospital, where she was listed in serious condition yesterday.
All three suspects were charged with felony homicide, a Virginia law that covers accidental killings that occur during the commission of a felony, police said. It is the equivalent of second-degree murder and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Police identified the men who were charged as David Elliott Pettaway, 22, 4441 Pond St. NE; Ira Terrence Wilson, 22, 1241 Howser Place SE, and Andre Tyrone Brent, 21, 1011 Seventh St. SE. All were being held without bond in the Alexandria jail.
In recent years, local officials have often been faced with the issue of whether their officers should follow suspects into neighboring jurisdictions.
Under guidelines approved last year by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, only persons suspected of felonies are to be chased across state lines. The COG policy was endorsed after several chases caused serious accidents, including a celebrated 1979 case in which a federal worker in Washington lost his legs after being struck by an car driven by bank robbery suspects who were fleeing Arlington County police.
Alexandria police said yesterday that D.C. police informed them that they were in pursuit of a 1982 Grand Prix on Shirley Highway about 11:15 p.m. Sunday. The accident occurred immediately after the stolen car left the interstate and headed west on Seminary Road in Alexandria.
"Everything was done by the book," said Arlen Justice, the deputy director of public safety in Alexandria. "They told us they were coming, and we were on our way to the scene. These situations are never cut and dry, but they require decisive action."
The COG agreement stipulates that when police chase a suspected felon across state lines, police in the area where the chase ends have authority. In the case of misdemeanors, police are not supposed to chase suspects out of their jurisdictions.
D.C. police officials said yesterday that they acted within the COG rules but that they intend to conduct an administrative investigation to make sure the rules were met.
"The D.C. code gives an officer the authority to chase a suspect felon into the state of Virginia," said a D.C. police official. "And once they cross the state line, the Virginia authorities are notified." The official added that the District may seek to extradite the suspects.
Several police authorities said yesterday that chasing suspects across boundaries is always a potential legal problem, but most said that time rarely allows for debate or clearance when chases are under way.
"The police are criticized if they let the person go, but if they do and some other crime is committed by that person, then they are criticized for that," said Carl Harbaugh, a senior staff analyst with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents 14,000 police executives across the country. Chases are a topic that "the police have been debating for years and years and years," he said.