A District cabdriver was arraigned on charges of voluntary manslaughter yesterday, after his taxi roared across the lawn of a Northeast Washington apartment complex and killed a 90-year-old woman he had just dropped off.
Louis Callands, 64, could face 30 years in prison if convicted. Charging papers say Callands failed a Breathalyzer test and that evidence indicated he may have deliberately steered toward Maretha Brown and her daughter, Ina Brown, whom he had just brought back from a doctor's appointment about 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Maretha Brown was pronounced dead shortly after she was taken to Washington Hospital Center.
Callands, licensed to drive a cab in the District for 37 years, declined to comment after his arraignment, according to his public defense attorney, Gladys Joseph, who also declined to comment.
D.C. police said that Callands told them his car had unexpectedly accelerated, causing him to drive over the lawn and into a line of parked cars near where Brown was standing.
But Ina Brown, 53, said yesterday from her room at Washington Hospital Center that Callands told her after the crash, "Y'all owe me more money." Charging documents mention neither Calland's explanation nor any dispute over money.
Magistrate Judge Aida L. Melendez released Callands, of the 1800 block of U Place SE, until his next court date on Nov. 26, ordering him to neither drink alcohol nor drive.
Ina Brown, who was listed in fair condition yesterday, said that she and her mother had hailed the cab after leaving a building on North Capitol Street. At first, Callands told them the fare for the trip to their apartment building in the 1800 block of 24th Street NE would be "eight dollars and something," Brown said.
A D.C. Taxicab Commission spokeswoman said yesterday that the fare should have been $10.10.
As the cab approached their complex, Brown said Callands said, "I really under-priced y'all. I should have charged y'all more money," but did not insist on more. Brown said her mother gave him $10, Callands gave them change, and they left no tip.
Then, Brown said, Callands turned around in the cul-de-sac at the end of the parking lot and sat still. She said it sounded like his engine was revving.
Then, Brown said, the cab accelerated toward them. It struck the rear of a line of parked cars, she said, pinning her and her mother between two of them.
"I asked why did he do that, all over a dollar," Ina Brown said. "He said, 'Y'all owe me more money.' "
The city's Taxicab Commission said yesterday that Callands had no passenger complaints since the commission began tracking them in 2000.