Family awaits answers in police shooting
Brother says man involved in police chase 'snapped'
Sundeep Chona is the brother of Munpreet Chona, who was killed by police this week. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun / February 2, 2012)
As they spoke, she was distracted by a report about a Halethorpe man who allegedly fled from police and stole a police cruiser before being shot and killed by officers. Rebecca and Sundeep "Sunny" Chona wouldn't learn for another four hours that that man was Sunny Chona's 26-year-old brother, Munpreet, known to his friends and family as "Monty."
"I don't honestly know what would have made him snap," Sunny Chona, 30, said Thursday from his Halethorpe front porch, chain-smoking Newports and surrounded by his family. "That's all I keep thinking about, when we were growing up, and what we turn into when we get older."
The Chonas said Monty Chona was headed home early Tuesday when he encountered police. They acknowledged Monty Chona had a troubled past, including a history of eluding police, but they said his life was headed in the right direction.
Police said an officer tried to pull Monty Chona over in Catonsville about 2 a.m. He was driving a white Nissan with the headlights turned off.
As authorities pursued him, Monty Chona crashed on Interstate 695 at the Interstate 95 split. That's when police say he stole a cruiser, after allegedly starting a fight with an officer and threatening to shoot the officer. Police later learned Chona did not have a gun.
Police said they tracked the cruiser to a Motel 6 on Caton Avenue. There, authorities saw several men in a dark-colored Ford Bronco speeding out of the parking lot. After the SUV was pulled over, police said, Chona moved to the driver's seat and fled once again.
Chona crashed the Bronco into a city police cruiser, and officers from Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County shot him multiple times, according to police. Authorities have not released details about what prompted them to fire.
On Thursday, authorities released the names of the officers involved in the shooting. Baltimore County police, who according to a long-standing agreement with the police union only release officers' last names in such cases, identified the three officers as Officer Starling, a five-year veteran; Officer Shipley, an 18-year veteran from the Woodlawn precinct; and Sgt. Buckingham, an 18-year veteran from the Franklin precinct.
Anne Arundel County police identified the officer from their agency who was involved in the shooting as Cpl. Eric Burns, a 19-year veteran assigned to the patrol division.
Three other individuals were in the Bronco, but police haven't released further details about them.
Chona had run-ins with the law several times in the past decade, including two encounters where police said he fled. Chona's convictions included theft and drug distribution. He had been sentenced in 2006 to three years in prison for drug distribution, but his family said he was released early for good behavior.
The incident that resulted in his death did not define Monty Chona's life, said Chris Mitchell, Rebecca Chona's brother. "That was 20 minutes out of a whole lifetime," Mitchell said.
Barbara Brand, Monty Chona's girlfriend, said he had been taking a parenting role with her three children. She spoke with him about two hours before he died; he said he was heading home after leaving a pool hall.
"None of it is adding up to me," she said. "That was not him. He was calm."
Rebecca Chona's cousin, Daniel Sears, 19, said that when he was growing up and fought with his parents, he would often to turn to Monty Chona. He said Chona once bought him a new wardrobe for school.
Monty Chona was born and raised in Baltimore County, one of two sons of Indian immigrants, Sunny Chona said. Their father died of a heart attack 13 years ago, and their mother died six years ago.
Sunny Chona said his brother dropped out of high school and worked odd jobs, including stints as a construction worker and a bail bondsman.
Sunny Chona collapsed on the floor of his living room in front of his daughter and two sons when he got a call about 1 p.m. Tuesday informing him that his brother was dead. He was home in between shifts as a FedEx driver.
Relatives are waiting for details from police. Rebecca Chona said she suspects Monty Chona was scared and fled police to avoid going back to prison.
The brothers last spoke over the weekend, when Monty Chona made plans to stop by Monday or Tuesday to pick up his mail.
"I love him. I want him to rest in peace," Sunny Chona said, adding, "He just snapped. He snapped."
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.