Seven youths were arrested after a high-speed chase in Columbia early yesterday during which two stolen vehicles were wrecked, two police cruisers were rammed and the suspects were tracked down by police dogs after bailing out of the vehicles.
Two police officers were injured in the hourlong chase. Sgt. Curt Spanos and Detective Ellsworth Jones were treated for shoulder and back injuries at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia and released.
The youths, ages 11 to 17, all have been charged with auto theft and conspiracy to commit auto theft. The two suspected of driving the stolen vehicles were charged with reckless driving, eluding police and leaving the scene of an accident. Six of the boys are from Baltimore, police said, the other is from Elkridge.
Four of the teen-agers were released into their parents' custody early yesterday, and three others were being held at the Thomas J. S. Waxter Children's Center in Laurel.
About 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, police said, a Long Reach resident reported that youths arriving in a Dodge Caravan had stolen his neighbor's Acura Legend in the 8400 block of Each Leaf Court.
The man, who was not identified because he is a witness, followed both vehicles in his own car and called 911 on his cellular phone. The minivan had been stolen in Baltimore, police said.
Officers spotted the vehicles and saw them separate in the Long Reach neighborhood. The driver of the Acura Legend sped away from police on Tamar Drive but struck a tree during the chase, spokesman Sgt. Steve Keller said.
Police said the driver pulled the car back onto the road, then struck a marked police car assisting in the pursuit, injuring Sergeant Spanos. The driver and passengers jumped from the car and fled, police said.
Meanwhile, Detective Jones was injured as he pursued the minivan on Hayshed Lane. The van struck a parked vehicle, then rammed the detective's vehicle, police said.
Detective Jones arrested the driver as the other occupants of the van ran away.
Eight to 12 officers and as many police vehicles were involved in the incident. The Howard County police K-9 unit and a state police helicopter combed the area for the six youths who ran away.
Police dog units eventually found the boys hiding in bushes or near the village shopping center in Long Reach. All were taken to the Southern District Police Station in Scaggsville for processing, Sergeant Keller said.
Police praised the witness who followed the cars and alerted police.
"He's certainly to be commended for actively assisting police," Sergeant Keller said. "But if anyone does do that, we recommend they use extreme caution if following suspects. You don't know who you're following."
Sergeant Keller said police policy permits high-speed chases in residential areas based on officers' judgment. Traffic, time of day, road conditions and the nature of a suspect's offense are considered, he said.