The car struck Neal's body, and he radioed to dispatch: His patrol vehicle has been stolen.
Gunning a black Bronco
Shane Edwards, who described himself as a "drinking buddy" of Chona's, was at a friend's house at about 1:30 a.m. when Chona called and said he needed a ride. He didn't say where he was or what was going on, Edwards said, but he wanted to be picked up at St. Agnes Hospital in Southwest Baltimore. Edwards jumped into his black Bronco with friends Nick and Clinton Rose and drove there to wait for him.
Chona called again, saying he was at the Motel 6 off Caton Avenue, room 126. When they got there, Chona came walking out, sweating and out of breath. He got into the car and told Edwards to drive.
"As a matter of fact, it was the last thing he said to me," Edwards would tell investigators.
Police had tracked Neal's patrol vehicle, using its automatic vehicle locator, to the 1500 block of Bloomfield Ave., in front of a bar called Loafer's, but the car was empty. Officers began setting up a perimeter when they noticed Edwards' Bronco drive up to the nearby motel and begin to leave "in a hurry," Baltimore County Lt. Thomas Mescki would later recall.
"It was a car we wanted to stop 'cause it's possibly picked up somebody we're looking for," Mescki said.
Their instincts were right. Inside the car, Chona was yelling at Edwards not to stop for the officers. "Just go. Please just drive," he pleaded. "Don't stop for them."
Edwards wasn't hearing that. He'd met Chona less than a year ago, through friends, and didn't know much about him. "Hell no, I'm getting out of the truck," he recalled telling Chona. "I wasn't thinking about anything but them 20 pistols pointed at me. As I looked over to my left, I seen all of them and I was like, 'What is going on here?'"
"Did you think somebody had done something wrong?" Baltimore police detective Robert Dohony asked Edwards.
"Of course," Edwards told him.
"And what were you thinking?" Dohony said.
"I was thinking Mani had did something to mess up big time," Edwards said.
The officers began plucking the four of them out of the truck for questioning. Edwards was first out, his hands raised in the air. Nick and Clinton Rose, who had been passed out and later told detectives he thought they were at a DUI checkpoint, got out too. But then the fourth man, Chona, stayed in the Bronco, and Mescki saw him lean down.
"I don't know what he was doing. I told him to get his hands up, and he had his hands down," Mescki said. "I don't know if he was using the seat as leverage to push to get to the front seat or what. But he gets to the front seat eventually puts his hands up, and then we're all thinking he's getting out and then all of a sudden he puts the car in drive and takes off.
"He spins wheels and forwards it at a high rate of speed, and he's out of there."
The police swarm
Baltimore County Officer Kenneth Shipley, at the time an 18-year veteran, had heard the sequence of events on the radio and had arrived at Caton Avenue to assist in stopping the Bronco. The other officers were behind the Bronco, and he decided to approach the car from the front. He shined his spotlight into the Bronco, and could see at least two men outside the car. When he looked inside the car, he saw Chona behind the driver's seat, and said he was looking right at him. The car suddenly took off toward him, and he heard what he believed to be a gunshot.
Pfc. Jeffrey Starling, a five-year veteran with the Baltimore County Police Department, had been listening to all of this on the radio, too. He heard the first call come out for the failure to stop, then heard of Neal's encounter. He heard as officers stopped the Bronco on Caton Avenue, and as that car fled from police. He lingered back around the perimeter, but saw the Bronco speed by and joined the pursuit.
Baltimore County Sgt. William Buckingham was also working that night, and was told by a supervisor to join the effort to search the area around the abandoned police vehicle. Buckingham, who'd been with the force 18 years, was taking part in the search when he saw Chona drive past him, pointing what he believed to be a handgun at his own head. Others, like Officer Brandon Pritchard of the Baltimore Police Department, said they saw Chona waving a handgun out of his window during the pursuit.