A Baltimore city employee was killed Tuesday afternoon after a man veered off an interstate and sped onto downtown streets, flipping the car he was driving in front of City Hall, according to police and the victim's family.
Matthew Hersl, an employee of 28 years who worked in the finance department and was an avid Orioles fan, was struck and taken to Maryland Shock Trauma center, where he was pronounced dead.
A Maryland State trooper first encountered the driver on Interstate 83 when the driver flew up behind him at speeds that may have exceed 100 miles per hour, according to Sgt. Marc Black, a department spokesman. The trooper was on the scene when the crash occurred, but police said the trooper had not been pursuing the driver nor was the man fleeing the officer.
Witnesses reported seeing the trooper following behind the car moments before the crash, and Black said the suspect was taken into custody with minor injuries.
According to Black, Trooper Zachary Mills was on his way to the Golden Ring barracks at about 2 p.m. when the suspect, in a black Acura, approached his car from behind rapidly. The trooper activated his rear lights to indicate to the Acura's driver that the car was going too fast, the Acura almost struck the trooper's car and the Acura took off into downtown using the Pleasant Street exit, Black said.
Mills, the trooper, continued to follow the Acura, which went through two red lights before it struck a light pole in front of City Hall and overturned. State Police said that Mills did not activate his front lights and sirens until the Acura had already crashed.
"Let me assure you, there wasn't a pursuit at that point in time," Black said.
City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young was among the city employees who rushed outside after hearing a loud crash from inside City Hall. He said he saw Hersl on the ground.
"I heard a bang, came out and saw the guy lifeless," Young said.
Caroline Wilson, 14, a student at Baltimore School for the Arts, said she was standing outside City Hall when she heard "these extremely loud shrieking tires."
She turned to see a car in front of the building.
"It took out the electrical pole. It took out the tree," she said. "There were people who almost got hit and they were running away."
James McEnchin, 62, Randallstown, said he was downtown for a meeting and witnessed the crash, and said police were pursuing the suspect with emergency equipment activated.
The state trooper "had their sirens and lights on two blocks away," McEnchin said. "The black Acura was about a block in front of them. He hesitated at the corner of Saratoga and Holliday. And he takes off as fast as he can at about at least 60 or 70 mph. He tries to negotiate the turn. He didn't make it. He slammed on the breaks and lost control of the car."
"The guy had his back turned. He didn't see him coming," McEnchin continued. "He hit the guy, knocked him up in the air, hit the tree and turned over."
City Councilman Brandon Scott said the tragedy could have struck anyone walking outside City Hall that day.
"It's awful," he said. "It's a beautiful day. You're walking outside. This shouldn't happen to anybody."
City records show Hersl worked as a cashier supervisor in the finance department's collections office, and had worked for the city since June 1985.
Hersl's sister immediately drove to Maryland Shock Trauma, where Baltimore City Fire paramedics had taken him, according to brother-in-law Charles Shott, She met Daniel Hersl, a Baltimore police officer and Matthew Hersl's brother, who was the first family member to arrive in the emergency room.
"We just heard the car struck a median and hit Matthew," Shott said. "I'm just hearing bits and pieces. My wife's all shook up."
Shott said Hersl was a "good man, a good guy."
He was not married and did not have any children but left behind four brothers, a sister and his mother.
"He got along with everybody," Shott said.
A Baltimore Orioles fan who attended every game, Hersl knew where family and friends could find tickets for any game. He competed with other fans to see how many balls they could snag in the bleachers, according to a profile on a website for other so-called "ballhawks."
"He'd do anything for you," Shott said. "Always helping out with the Orioles. Always getting people tickets."
He caught several baseballs at the games over the years, often giving them to family members, Shott said.
"He lived for baseball," Shott said.
Sun reporters Justin George and Carrie Wells contributed to this article