What officers didn't know — between the spoken threat to Neal that he would be shot, to Shipley hearing what he thought was a gunshot, to Buckingham and others thinking they saw Chona holding a gun to his own head — was that Chona was not armed. But his erratic behavior and nearly everyone's belief that they saw a gun ratcheted up their fear that they could be shot by the wild man leading them on a chase through three jurisdictions.

Cpl. Eric Burns, an Anne Arundel County officer for 20 years who was working patrol in the Northern District, was among those who got the call to assist their counterparts, and "pulled into line" with several Baltimore County police vehicles as they drove on I-695 and onto 295 south, then West Nursery Road near the airport.

The Bronco led them from Winterson Road, then eventually to Corporate Boulevard, then back toward West Nursery Road.

Being more familiar with the area, Burns maneuvered to the front of the convoy and called out the road names to the dispatcher. Asked to recount these later, Burns said he lost track of all the streets they took, and would estimate about 30 police cars from the two counties, the city, and state police were following Chona.

Somewhere along the way, the Bronco drove over a stop strip, spiking the back right tire. But he kept going, with the wheel falling part, and traveled from Nursery Road onto Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.

The pursuit had now slowed, due to the deteriorating condition of the Bronco. Officers set up a blockade at Annapolis Road and Patapsco Avenue, near the Patapsco Flea Market. Undeterred, Chona turned into the Patapsco Village Shopping Center, a strip of businesses slightly elevated and set back from the main road. Instead of following him, some officers broke off to block the exits.

Chona won't surrender

Burns pulled up alongside Chona, and began screaming orders at Chona to stop and show his hands. Chona was driving parallel to him, and looking directly at him. As Burns yelled, he saw that they were headed straight for a parking island.

Chona disappeared from view, as if attempting to get something from under the seat, Burns would later say. The cars were still driving side by side, barreling toward the parking island. They collided, and Chona leaned back up. Did he have a gun?, Burns wondered, and pulled his department-issue Sig Sauer handgun, firing one shot.

Chona was struck in the shoulder, leaned back, then leaned forward. Burns fired two more rounds, striking the driver's side door, and Chona leaned over to the passenger seat. He then drove into a marked Baltimore City police cruiser, which had pulled in front of his path to stop him.

The pursuit was over, but Chona hadn't surrendered, and the panicked officers were trying to make sense of his actions. A city officer, Roy Roberts, wrote in a report that he heard Chona yell, "I have a baby in the back," which was a lie. His foot was on the gas pedal, but the tires were spinning.

The officers jumped out of their vehicles and moved in. Shipley and Buckingham saw Chona leaning down. Shipley and Starling leapt onto the hood of Burns' vehicle, guns drawn, and ordered Chona not to move. It appeared Chona was trying to crawl into the back seat, and could be concealing his hands.

Buckingham came from the passenger side, ordering Chona out of the vehicle, and calling for the other officers to provide cover. Burns was moving toward the vehicle from the opposite side, and a fellow officer pulled him out of the way, fearing he could be hit by the crossfire. Buckingham opened the passenger door, and Shipley saw Chona twist his body up and to the left, toward the officers. This was perceived as a threatening motion, with Chona potentially preparing to lift a weapon.

Shipley, Buckingham and Starling all fired, striking Chona a total of 16 times, according to the medical examiner's report.

The day after, Chona's family and his girlfriend told a reporter they were stunned. This wasn't the Monty they knew, the one who bought a new school wardrobe for his girlfriend's cousin, and had taken on a parenting role with her three children.

What was Chona running from? To be sure, no gun was recovered at any point during the investigation — not in Edwards' Bronco and not in the Altima. Why would he want armed officers to think he had a gun?

A toxicology test showed that Chona was intoxicated that night; his blood alcohol level of .09 was just over the legal limit in Maryland. Police also said they found a green plant-like substance in the center console of his abandoned car, though there were no drugs in his system.

If he didn't have a gun, what did those officers seeing him holding up against his head? Maybe it was a cellphone. While the zig-zagging route he took to evade police seemed without purpose, police would later determine that he drove through the parking lot of a Linthicum motel where he had been living, and at one point pulled off a main road to pass the Halethorpe home of his brother.

According to a tip received by detectives days after the shooting, he called his girlfriend, Barbara Brand, during the chase. "I'm being chased by the cops, and I'm not going back to jail," he had said, according to the tip.

In a brief interview, Brand, who has since moved out of state, confirmed that she received a call, but that it went straight to her voice mail as she slept.

Police say his brother, Sundeep Chona, told them in a taped interview that Monty had once said he would pretend to have a gun and threaten to shoot the officers if police ever tried to stop him.

His brother recalled: "He was not willing to go back to jail."

jfenton@baltsun.com


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