A man wanted in connection with a deadly police chase has been accused of driving a stolen car at a high speed on Interstate 95 and swerving across lanes of traffic, causing a chain reaction that led a Prince George’s County police cruiser to veer off the road.
Police officials revealed the details of the chase as they announced a warrant for the arrest of the suspected driver, 23-year-old Kevon Darnell Neal of Fort Washington. He is believed to have driven the stolen Acura TL that a pair of officers were chasing Monday when their cruiser crashed, killing driver Officer Adrian Morris, 23, and injuring passenger Officer Michael Risher, 24.
A passenger in the Acura, Kenneth C. Mitchell, was arrested Tuesday and was charged with auto theft. Other charges could be filed as the investigation continues, officials said.
“We will continue to pursue any and all charges that are appropriate,” said Maj. Michael Straughan, commander of the police department’s Criminal Investigations Division. “The charges that are in place are what we have at this time.”
The 2005 Acura TL — which investigators staked out before arresting Mr. Mitchell as he got back into the car in Southeast D.C. — was stolen Sunday from an Exxon gas station in Beltsville when it was left running unattended, Maj. Straughan said.
The next day, it was used in a theft in Burtonsville. Shortly after the theft was reported, it was seen at the Laurel gas station where the police pursuit began. The Acura pulled up to the Shell gas station on Sandy Spring Road and the passengers got out and tried to enter vehicles parked there. They left, and the manager of the gas station called police.
“Officer Morris and Officer Risher were doing what any police officer would do,” Maj. Straughan said, responding to a question about the department’s chase policy. “We all joined the police department to become police officers to do two things: help our community and catch bad guys. That’s what they were doing.”
The police department’s policy only allows officers to give chase for some felony crimes, according to department officials.
The crash occurred after the Acura cut directly across all lanes of traffic, causing vehicles around it to brake or swerve, Maj. Straughan said.
“This causes a chain reaction which causes our pursuing officer … to quickly change lanes to avoid striking another vehicle,” he said.
At that point, Officer Morris lost control of the cruiser. It veered off the highway and into a ditch, flipping several times and ejecting Officer Morris, who died from head trauma. Officer Risher was treated for his injuries and released from a hospital Monday night.
Police said they are now focusing their efforts on locating Mr. Neal and have offered a $25,000 reward for information that leads to his arrest.