A Glen Burnie man convicted yesterday of leading police on a high-speed chase last July said officers dropped a fire extinguisher from a bridge overpass into his truck and threw burning flares in apparent attempts to stop him.
Testifying yesterday during his trial on charges of assault with intent to murder, Edward Thomas Crenshaw III saida 12-inch-long fire extinguisher crashed through his windshield and landed in his lap while he fled from police on Interstate 97 in NorthCounty.
"If I wouldn't have ducked it would have killed me," he said, adding: "Believe it or not, Anne Arundel County police were throwing flares, lit flares, at my truck, and one actually stuck in the windshield."
Crenshaw, 23, also said police beat him and dislocated his shoulder while he attempted to surrender at the conclusion of the 105-minute chase that included two trips through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and speeds of up to 85 miles an hour.
Sgt. William Darner and Captain Richard Smith, the ranking officers during the July 24 chase, have been charged with violating department policy, police have confirmed. Sgt. Russell Hewitt of the county police internal affairs unit, who attended Crenshaw's trial, said the investigation into the incident is continuing.
Crenshaw was convicted on two counts of assault and two counts of malicious destruction of property in connection with two collisions with police cruisers during the chase. He also was found guilty of reckless and negligent driving and fleeing and eludingpolice, but county Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. dismissed more serious charges, including four counts of assault with intent to murder and four counts of assault with intent to maim.
Crenshaw faces more than 40 years in prison at his sentencing, set for April 24. Prosecutor Steven M. Sindler would not say what sentence he will recommend, other than to say he will ask the judge to sentence Crenshaw tothe maximum one year in jail for fleeing from police.
During the trial, defense attorney T. Joseph Touhey Jr. attempted to show that the "dangerous" police response fueled Crenshaw's fear and panic, and that his client did not intend to hurt anyone.
Prosecutor Sindler countered the police conduct had no bearing on Crenshaw's guilt or innocence, because it happened after he had led police on the pursuit and had crashed into at least two police cruisers. The judge agreed, but said the prosecution had proved only assault, because it had not shown Crenshaw intended to murder or permanently maim the officers.
County police officers Paul Deinlein and William Krampf were treatedfor neck and back injuries at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and Sharon Law, a state toll facilities officer, suffered a shoulder injury in collisions with Crenshaw's truck.
Testimony showed the incident began with a lunchtime argument between Crenshaw and his 27-year-old wife, Dana Crenshaw.
When Crenshaw, an auto mechanic, came home from his job, he realized his wife was at his parents' house in the400 block of Elwell Court. Crenshaw, who was convicted of assaultinghis wife in 1987, admitted driving his pickup truck on his parents' front lawn around midnight, a stunt which prompted his wife to call police.
Police broadcast a warning that Crenshaw might be armed, but the wife testified she never told them her husband was armed. Crenshaw said he was on his way back to the house to apologize when police, on the lookout for his truck, began following him on Old Mill Boulevard.
Asked by his lawyer why he suddenly accelerated to start thechase, Crenshaw said: "Just plain scared." Pressed on the issue later by the prosecutor, Crenshaw said, "I've been jailed before. I've also been beat by Anne Arundel County police there, and I don't want tobe beaten by them again. That's why I'm moving out of this state when I get a chance."
County police Officer David L. Smith said he pursued Crenshaw north on Interstate 97 and that Crenshaw tried to ram his cruiser. The chase wound its way through Glen Burnie before reaching the Harbor Tunnel Thruway, where Crenshaw sideswiped Deinlein's cruiser, causing it to crash into Krampf's car.
From there Crenshawheaded north to the Harbor Tunnel -- stopping to pay his $1 toll -- before turning around and returning southbound through the tunnel, evading a roadblock set up by Toll Officer Law.
As the chase ensued down Interstate 97, Crenshaw sideswiped Law's cruiser. The chase ended when Crenshaw returned to his parent's house. He said he emerged from the truck with his hands over his head, but was thrown into the bed of the truck with his arm behind his back, dislocating his shoulder.
"They cuffed me and turned me around and hit me in the head witha walkie talkie, a flashlight, a nightstick, I don't know what," he said.
Crenshaw also testified that during the chase police officers tried to set up roadblocks using sand-filled orange plastic barrels.
Also on hand for yesterday's trial was Ellenora de Waal, lawyer for James L. Blose, who is appealing his firing as a county police officer in December. Blose, who was fired for insubordination in an unrelated matter, was fired "because he told the truth," de Waal charged.
Circuit Court records show Blose is contesting a decision to barfrom his police trial board hearing communication tapes related to the chase. The tapes would have been used to try to discredit Sgt. William Darner, the officer who accused him of refusing to follow an order, the court records show.