Harford teen-ager killed in crash with police cruiser


A Harford County teen-ager was killed early yesterday when his car was struck by a state police cruiser along U.S. 1 in Rising Sun.

Jonathan David Popa, 17, of the 2100 block of Oaklyn Drive, Fallston, was pronounced dead at Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace shortly after the 12:01 a.m. crash.

Trooper Rodney Gene Manuel, 23, of the North East barracks, was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was treated and released.

Trooper Manuel was driving south on U.S. 1 in Conowingo while reponding to a call when he crested a hill and saw a car stopped in the southbound lane north of Connelly Road, Trooper William R. Miller said.

Trooper Manuel's cruiser hit Jonathan's 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier broadside on the passenger side.

Police said Jonathan was not wearing a seat belt.

Trooper Miller said investigators believe Jonathan was making an illegal U-turn when his car was hit.

Trooper Manuel had his light and siren on, but it was not known how fast he was traveling.

The accident is still under investigation.

About 15 cars lined the driveway and street in front of the Popas' house yester- day.

Jonathan's father wanted to know whether the police officer was all right.

He seemed relieved when told that the state trooper was released from the hospital, but his eyes were still red and his face strained as he talked about the loss of his basketball-star son.

" 'Air' Jordan was one of his heroes. He lived and breathed basketball," said John Popa, 48, who owns Christian Tire Co. in Fallston.

Jonathan played basketball for Harford Christian. He was named Most Valuable Player last season and broke the school's single-game scoring record when he hit for 44 points against Fairwinds Academy in Delaware on January 10.

He was thinking about going to Harford County Community College so he could play basketball again, Mr. Popa said.

"He always had a smile and a good story to tell," said Ken DeVault, 17, a friend who graduated with Jonathan.

"He would always pick someone up if they needed a ride," his friend said.

Just after midnight yesterday, Jonathan died doing just that -- he had just taken a friend home.

"He was like your brother and your father. When you were feeling down, he made you smile," said Kimberly Harris, 18, another of Jonathan's classmates.

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