Police on Monday arrested a Maryland man in an August hit-and-run that killed a physician assistant who was struck just after she left work at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington.
Authorities estimated that Rahveed Shamaah Comford, 32, of Fort Washington was driving at least 45 mph in a black 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe on Southern Avenue when the vehicle struck Emebet Kebede, 56, of Lanham, Md. The speed limit is 30 mph.
The driver, who stopped after the Aug. 21 crash but left when officers arrived, later told police that he was not wearing glasses he needs to drive, according to a police arrest affidavit. Police also said Comford’s 1-year-old daughter was in the SUV at the time.
Kebede’s husband, Michael Habte, said he was relieved by the arrest and said “negligence” led to a loss not only for his family, but for the community.
“She was taken away just for some nonsense like speeding,” he said. “What hurts most is the fact that he fled from the scene. Honest human beings don’t do that.”
Comford was charged with involuntary manslaughter after his arrest Monday. A man reached by phone who identified himself as Comford’s father declined to comment.
Kebede was the second pedestrian killed in the same block of Southern Avenue this year. In April, Faith Pines, 68, who lived in Fort Washington, was struck after leaving United Medical Center. A security guard was charged with involuntary manslaughter in that case.
The 1300 block of Southern Avenue is well lit, but it is also a busy road that runs along the District’s border with Maryland. There is no crosswalk or traffic signal, but the D.C. mayor told reporters last month that city officials would look into safety improvements.
A spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation said a new traffic signal will be installed by the end of the year “to stop vehicular traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely.” Also, the spokesman said that additional signs, lighting and new pavement markings are already in place in the area.
The victim’s husband, Habte, said hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil for her, a testament to how his wife lived her life — with love. The couple have two adult daughters — Belen Michael, 26, and Baeza Michael, 20. Kebede came to the United States from Ethiopia in 1985 and studied at Howard University.
“It really surprised me, the kindness and sincere sorrow of many of her co-workers and the community,” he said. “I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough to them. Without that love I would not have made it.”
He said he wants people to remember his wife’s laughter. “She was joyous,” Habte said. “She was always out trying to help people. At the funeral people came up and said, ‘She was my doctor.’ She was everyone’s doctor.”
Four people witnessed the crash and reported to police that the SUV appeared to be speeding; police estimated the speed at about 45 mph, according to the affidavit. Police said Kebede was thrown 75 feet after she was hit; she died at a hospital. One witness said it appeared that the SUV had slowed to avoid hitting a car ahead of it and then sped up when the car turned, about the same time the woman was struck.
Witnesses told police that the SUV’s driver stopped after striking Kebede and got out of the vehicle. He watched as paramedics tried to help Kebede, then got back into the SUV and drove to a nearby driveway, police said in the affidavit. He got out and returned to the scene, but turned away from police when they arrived. Police said the man then walked back to his car and drove away, “without making his identity known.”
Police published a photo of the driver that had been taken by one of the witnesses. The arrest affidavit says that Comford agreed to speak to police on Aug. 22, after relatives told him his photo was on television news. Comford told police he was driving the SUV and was going about 35 mph “and didn’t see” the woman “until it was too late.” He said he left the scene when police did not arrive quickly enough.
In April, police said Comford was involved in another hit-and-run, this one a minor incident on Good Hope Road in Southeast Washington. Police said a car driven by Comford rear-ended another vehicle, dislodging the muffler and denting the bumper. Police said he drove away without exchanging information with the other driver.
He was charged Aug. 24, three days after the crash that killed Kebede, with leaving the scene of an accident, and was ordered by a judge not to drive without a valid permit. At the time, he had been interviewed by police about the fatal crash but not yet charged.
On Monday, Comford was ordered released into high intensity supervision, meaning that he is confined to his home and must wear a monitoring bracelet. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Oct. 18.
Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.