Andrew Baker Jr. and Angel Chiwengo were holding hands and listening to soft music on the radio as he drove her home from the Pikesville Doubletree Hilton where they worked.
As they headed east on Northern Parkway and passed through the York Road intersection, a Honda Accord fleeing police blasted through a red light — at more than 100 mph — and smashed into his Jeep.
Chiwengo, 46, and the two people inside the Accord died. Somehow, Baker, 54, survived. But with the anniversary of the Sept. 23, 2013, crash approaching, he bears deep physical and emotional scars: He walks with a cane, and has nightmares and flashbacks. Even worse, he says, is the feeling that he somehow let Angel down.
Now previously undisclosed details about the crash are raising new questions whether police violated departmental policy by engaging in a high-speed chase. Those details, from an investigative report obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Public Information Act request to prosecutors, shed more light on the role of the unmarked police car that was pursuing the Accord.
Officers were ordered to break off their pursuit if speeds got too high, according to the report. But just seconds before crash, the police car was traveling between 75 and 84 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to two analyses in the investigative report.
Baltimore police officials regularly assert that officers do not chase vehicles, citing departmental rules prohibiting high-speed pursuits except in "exigent" circumstances. But in several cases each year, civilians have been injured or killed in cases where witnesses claimed officers were involved in a chase — the type of incident that can pose a danger to the public, experts say.
In recent months, the agency has publicly disclosed at least three investigations alleged to involve chases; in one of them, a 12-year-old girl was killed. Last month, an officer was charged with assault after allegedly striking a suspect he was chasing — an incident captured by a television news helicopter.
"Baltimore City for 30 years has had a no-pursuit policy which they don't follow," said Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina researcher who has studied police pursuits for more than 25 years and spent time observing Baltimore police in the late 1990s.
Police say an internal investigation of the Northern Parkway crash is continuing. Prosecutors — who reviewed the circumstances of the crash for signs of "reckless disregard or a gross deviation" from agency rules — declined to bring charges against the officers involved. The department says the officers are back to full duty.
Investigative documents show that the pursuit that led to the crash began when a group of three city officers working patrol in Northeast Baltimore said they smelled marijuana coming from the next car at a stop light.
They flicked on their flashing lights to make a traffic stop, but when the vehicle fled, they pursued the Accord through North Baltimore's intersections, main roads and side streets. The pursuit covered 4.3 miles in less than three and a half minutes, investigative documents show.
One of the officers in the vehicle told investigators in the criminal probe that they dropped back after being told to stop pursuing the Accord, though they continued to follow. He said they wanted to see where the vehicle was headed.
"We continued to follow the vehicle to try to keep in sight. Um, in a safely [sic] manner," Officer Chris Henard told the investigator, according to a transcript. "We're trying to keep it in sight just to see which way it was going."
When the crash occurred, Baltimore police pledged a thorough and transparent investigation, but as the one-year anniversary of the crash approaches, Baker, the lone survivor, says he has never been interviewed by investigators. His attempts to get information about the case have gone without response, he says, except for a two-page report consisting of a diagram of the crash that was mailed to him without a letter or explanation.
Said Baker, "Somebody should at least apologize to me, and apologize to the family."
The Baltimore Police Department does not prohibit "high-speed pursuit driving" but limits it to circumstances where a failure to pursue may result in grave injury or death or "instances where the officer determines that immediate action is necessary," according to its general orders.
The orders state that the department "recognizes it is better to allow a criminal to temporarily escape apprehension than to jeopardize the safety of citizens and its officers in a high speed pursuit."
Michael E. Davey, an attorney for the officers who were following the Accord, said it is "natural instinct" for officers to pursue a driver who tries to flee. Even when a stop is for a minor traffic offense, a suspect's decision to flee a simple traffic stop raises suspicions about other criminal activity in an officer's mind. Still, in the case of the Northern Parkway crash, he said, "we do not believe they were actively pursuing the vehicle."
Timothy Dolan, the former chief of the Minneapolis Police Department, said it is a reality that police officers will give chase.