In the wee hours Monday, Louis Poteat Sr. headed to his job stocking grocery shelves. As he drove north on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, a Mercedes-Benz struck his SUV from behind.

The crash killed the 72-year-old Seat Pleasant man. Now family members are struggling to comprehend the police explanation for his death: The Mercedes might have been street racing.

“That is crazy,” said Louis Poteat Jr., the victim’s elder son. “People . . . out racing at that time of the morning, they have no respect for life.”

U.S. Park Police said the crash occurred about 2:20 a.m. on the parkway, just south of Powder Mill Road, in the Beltsville area. Poteat was traveling north in a Chevrolet Equinox that was rear-ended by a dark-colored Mercedes that was possibly involved in a race, said Sgt. David Schlosser, a Park Police spokesman.

The Mercedes, and a silver Lexus it was apparently racing against, sped off, Schlosser said. Witnesses reported seeing the two cars speeding along the parkway before the collision, authorities said.

The victim was taken to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, authorities said.

Poteat Jr. said his father was probably traveling to the Baltimore area, where he stocked shelves for several grocery stores. It was one of many jobs he had held throughout his life, his son said.

At one time or another, he worked at the post office, sold insurance and was involved in a District Heights record store, Babs Records, his son said.

“Everybody loved him,” Poteat Jr. said. “It’s kind of sad that he had to go like that.”

Family members said Poteat Sr. loved to golf in his spare time and took a trip to Florida each winter so he could play year-round. Most of his family members had seen him just days before the crash, his son said, when they gathered for Thanksgiving dinner.

Schlosser said investigators are asking anyone with information about the crash to call the department’s criminal investigations unit at 202-610-8730 or the tip line at 202-610-8737. He said the Mercedes would have received significant front- end damage.

Staff researcher Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.