BALTIMORE (AP) — A Maryland Transportation Authority police officer was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve, authorities said.
Officer Courtney G. Brooks, 40, was struck by a sport utility vehicle about 11:20 p.m. on Interstate 95 near the interchange with Interstate 395 in Baltimore, police said. He was rushed to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died.
Witnesses told police that the driver of a Ford Explorer tried to exit northbound I-95 at the I-395 ramp before veering back onto the highway, across the area where Officer Brooks was standing, which was marked with more than 50 flares.
The driver didn't stop after striking Officer Brooks. Police recovered the Explorer — which had severe front-end damage — early yesterday morning at a truck stop off I-95 in North East, about 50 miles from the crash scene.
Shortly thereafter, the owner, Kerri J. King, 35, was arrested at her Elkton home, said Sgt. Pamela Thorne, a Transportation Authority police spokeswoman.
Police weren't sure whether Miss King was behind the wheel, but she was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court in a drunken driving case.
Transportation Authority Police Chief Marcus L. Brown told reporters that Miss King was "a person of interest" in the crash and was being questioned. He said she asked for an attorney after her arrest.
"She's the owner of the vehicle, and we're going to continue to investigate that to determine if she was the driver," Chief Brown said.
When she was cited for drunken driving in September, Miss King was pulled over by a Transportation Authority police officer at the same spot on I-95 where the fatal accident occurred, according to court records.
Officer Brooks was a 13-year veteran of the Transportation Authority police force, which patrols the state's airports, tunnels and bridges. He lived in Carroll County and leaves behind a fiancee and three children, police said.
"The death of Officer Courtney Brooks last night as thousands gathered to celebrate the New Year is a somber reminder of the courageous work done by law-enforcement officers throughout our state — at the state and local level — to keep the citizens of Maryland safe," Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday.
Officer Brooks was the first Transportation Authority police officer to die in the line of duty since 2004, when a driver slammed into the cruiser of Officer Duke G. Aaron III, 29, on U.S. 50 near the Bay Bridge. The driver, Albert G. Antonelli, received a three-year prison sentence.
He was the eighth Transportation Authority police officer killed and the fourth to die in a traffic-related incident.
Last year, a record 81 officers were killed nationwide in traffic-related incidents, according to statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The previous high was 78 in 2000.
The group said traffic-related incidents were the leading cause of police officer deaths for the 10th straight year. Of the 81 traffic-related deaths last year, 15 officers were struck by automobiles while outside their own vehicles.