Friday, June 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | Officers were not chasing a car that jumped a c urb, crashed into a crowd and killed a woman and three young children, Philadelphia’s police commissioner said Thursday.

Chief Charles Ramsey said the officer would have been justified if he had chased the two suspects - one on the motorcycle they were accused of stealing, and one in a car - but he was stuck in traffic.

“Did a pursuit take place? The answer is no,” Chief Ramsey said during a news conference at police headquarters, pointing to the mug shot of one of the suspects. “The fault belongs to the individual you see here.”

The driver of the car, Donta Cradock, 18, and the man who fled on the motorcycle, Ivan Rodriguez, 20, have been charged with armed robbery, assault and related offenses, police said. Capt. James Clark said he expects that “more serious charges” will be filed soon.

Chief Ramsey said both men had extensive criminal records, and bench warrants were out for their arrest.

The events started when a witness told the officer he had seen a passenger exit a car and steal a motorcycle at gunpoint about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The officer spotted the car matching the witness’ description at a traffic light in the Feltonville neighborhood and pulled up behind the car. The officer turned on his emergency lights and ordered the driver to get out of the car, but the driver sped off, Chief Ramsey said.

He also said the officer was stuck in traffic and couldn’t pursue the driver immediately and lost sight of the car before coming upon the accident scene about a mile away.

Mr. Cradock lost control, crashed into the crowd and became wedged between a house and a pole, Chief Ramsey said. The lack of skid marks indicated that the driver did not try to brake.

Mr. Cradock was injured and arrested, and a gun was found in the car, police said. He remained hospitalized Thursday.

Mr. Rodriguez was arrested at his nearby home, where officers were attacked by a dog and had to shoot it, but didn’t kill it, said police, who recovered two shotguns, two handguns and a rifle there.

The crash killed Latoya Smith, 22; her daughter, Remedy Smith, almost 1; her niece, Alliyah Griffin, 6; and a neighbor, Gina Rosario, 7. The accident happened in front of the Smith home.

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