There is no indication that the officer had activated the lights or siren of his marked cruiser, but he did have a green light, according to Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr.
“The best information we have right now is the officer did have a green light, was proceeding through the intersection, and that the pedestrian unfortunately was crossing against the ‘don’t walk’ sign,” Roessler said at a Sunday afternoon news conference.
The area is a busy commercial corridor that has multiple travel lanes and has come to be known as a dangerous stretch for pedestrians.
The incident closed three lanes of the highway for several hours.
Roessler said the officer, identified only as someone with more than four years of law enforcement experience, was responding to a call for service for disorderly subjects.
Police on Sunday were still trying to determine the actual speed of the cruiser at the time of the crash, Roessler said. The posted speed in the area is 45 mph.
Roessler said the cruiser’s in-car video system shows the officer was driving through a green light, eastbound on Arlington Boulevard approaching the intersection of Graham Road, when he struck the man in the left lane. The officer got out of the cruiser to aid the victim until emergency personnel arrived, Roessler said.
Police said Montoya was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The crash revived concerns about pedestrian safety in the county — where 14 pedestrians have been killed in traffic crashes so far this year — and about that section of Arlington Boulevard in particular, which has a history of tragedies involving pedestrians.
The incident also is the latest of several fatal crashes this month involving pedestrians in the Washington region. An unidentified man was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Laurel on Oct. 12. A day later, a 67-year-old Takoma Park man was killed when he was struck by two vehicles at an intersection in the Silver Spring area of Montgomery County. And, last Monday, a 54-year-old Suitland woman was killed in a hit-and-run in Prince George’s County.
The number of pedestrians fatalities in the region has been on the rise in recent years. Pedestrians accounted for one-third of the 290 traffic deaths in the greater Washington area last year — their largest proportion of the region’s road fatalities in more than a decade, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.
Fairfax County traffic-safety advocates said Sunday’s crash highlights the safety concerns along a portion of highway that is known to have poor lighting and where cars are traveling at high speeds and pedestrians are forced to cross eight lanes of traffic.
“Unacceptable!” tweeted Shawn Newman of the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling.
“This section of Arlington Boulevard is designed for 50+ mph speeds with 8 crossing lanes and minimal light through a dense residential and commercial area,” Newman tweeted using the group’s handle.
In a separate message directed at the Virginia Department of Transportation, the group tweeted: “Stop just telling people to slow down, build the roads safer.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation is conducting a study of a segment of Route 50 between Wilson Boulevard and Jaguar Trail, including the intersection where Sunday’s crash occurred; a public meeting is scheduled for Monday. As part of the study, the department is considering changes to traffic signal timing, turn restrictions and other pedestrian improvements.
Roessler said the investigation into Sunday’s crash will determine the lighting conditions at the intersection as well as condition of the pedestrian walk signs and the speed of the cruiser; it will also include a forensic medical examination.
The officer involved in the crash has been assigned to administrative duties pending the investigation, Roessler said, and the results will be sent to the Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney’s office for review.
“All of us in the D.C. area are trying to combat the pedestrian crashes and the fatalities, which is very unfortunate in our urbanizing area,” Roessler said. “This is just horrible. . . . We have an individual that has died. It is traumatic. I pray for the victim, their family, this officer.”