The driver of a stolen car was shot to death by a Baltimore police officer who had pursued the vehicle for several miles, until it hit several cars and ran onto a grassy embankment at Park Circle, authorities said.
Two passengers had complied with the unidentified policeman's order to get out of the car with their hands in the air, but the driver remained in his seat, according to Agent Doug Price, a police spokesman.
What happened in the next few seconds between the driver and the officer remained under investigation last night by homicide detectives, and Agent Price was unable to provide a detailed account of the shooting. But bystanders told reporters they could not understand why the driver was shot.
The car, a Burgundy 1992 Toyota Cressida, had been reported stolen at knifepoint shortly past 4 p.m. from a salesman for Brown's Honda City in Brooklyn Park, Anne Arundel County.
The car salesman, Robert James Crawford, 48, told county police that he was accompanying a young man on test drive when, while stopped for a red light at Ritchie Highway and Belle Grove Road, the supposed customer displayed a large knife and ordered him out of the vehicle.
Mr. Crawford said the car was driven north on Potee Street into Baltimore.
The Western District patrol officer told investigators he tried to stop the car in the 2000 block of N. Pulaski St. at 5:51 p.m., and took up pursuit with emergency lights and siren on when the driver sped away. They followed a serpentine route of nearly four miles along Baltimore streets before the Toyota hit two other cars near Park Circle.
One of the cars that was struck damaged a third vehicle, while the driver of the Toyota put the car into reverse and "rammed" the patrol car behind it on the embankment below the Parks Sausage Co. plant, Agent Price said.
The two passengers and the officer were being questioned about the incident early today, and their identities -- along with that of the dead driver -- were not divulged.
Agent Price said the passengers and driver all appeared to be teen-agers, and he described the officer as "a veteran."
In addition to the investigation by homicide detectives, the State's Attorney's Office will decide whether the shooting appeared to be justifiable and the department will review the officer's actions "to see if he followed established procedures in the use of deadly force," Agent Price said.