Monday, February 4, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) — The family of a man killed in a hit-and-run accident in Harford County last week think state police have taken extraordinary steps to protect the identity of a suspect in the case because he is an Anne Arundel County police officer.

“Police are being pretty tight-lipped about their side,” said attorney Rick Schmidt, speaking on behalf of the family, Mexican natives who do not speak English. “We hope they’ll be forthcoming. … At some point in time, they’ll have to put their cards on the table.”

The suspect’s name was redacted from an accident report and removed from a daily log that contains the name of every person detained at the state police JFK Barrack in Perryville, Md., according to the Baltimore Sun.

“To protect the integrity of this case, we have redacted all of the information that could lead anybody to the naming of a possible suspect,” state police spokeswoman Elena Russo said. State police say the investigation into the Jan. 28 accident is continuing and could take months to complete. At issue is who was driving the officer’s vehicle, Miss Russo said.

Antonio Martinez, 28, of Baltimore, was driving northbound on I-95 when a Nissan pickup truck rear-ended his vehicle. His Ford Explorer spun out of control and flipped over a guardrail into the southbound lanes.

Two others in Mr. Martinez’ car received injuries that were not life-threatening.

Witnesses told police that the Nissan’s driver stopped briefly before fleeing. His truck was found at a relative’s home in Cecil County.

Anne Arundel County police Chief Col. James Teare confirmed that the driver was an off-duty officer. He said the 3½-year veteran was suspended from law-enforcement duties. Col. Teare, who said on the day of the accident that he was “saddened and disturbed” that an officer might have been involved, released another statement Friday saying the agency is cooperating with the investigation.

Mr. Martinez’ family finds it particularly painful to think that a police officer might have used his training to save Mr. Martinez’ life if he had stayed to help.

Mr. Matinez’s wife, Nohoemi, 25, who sat solemnly Friday with her 3-year-old daughter, Joslyn, on her lap, said the last time she saw her husband was when she kissed him goodbye before he left for work.

“Like we always did, but I never expected him not to return,” she said.

Mr. Martinez will be buried in central Mexico, from where the family moved four years ago. Attorneys would not say whether the family is in the country legally.

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