Police sergeant killed in crash on Pulaski Highway


Baltimore police yesterday were mourning an off-duty sergeant killed in a car crash being investigated as alcohol-related -- one week after a Baltimore County officer died in a similar accident.

Sgt. Richard P. Harris, 35, a 13-year veteran who lived with his wife and three children in Parkville, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, which occurred about 5:45 a.m. in the 6200 block of Pulaski Highway in East Baltimore. Sergeant Harris, driving a 1994 Ford Mustang, apparently tried to make a U-turn when he was broadsided by a pickup truck.

His passenger and colleague, Officer Jesse K. Schmidt, 38, who has been on the force for four years, suffered internal abdominal injuries and was listed in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital.

Three others -- two civilian passengers in Sergeant Harris' car and the truck's driver -- also were injured. One remained in critical condition late yesterday; two others were resting at home.

The accident occurred exactly one week after Scott Michael Kern, a rookie Baltimore County police officer, died in an alcohol-related accident that left one colleague seriously injured and another charged with drunken driving.

All three officers had been at a Parkville bar called Strapps.

Investigators released few details of yesterday's accident. Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman, said autopsy results were not available as of last night.

Traffic investigators found two beer bottles inside the sergeant's car, police said. A source close to the investigation said both officers had visited McCallister's bar in Northeast Baltimore after their shift ended at 11 p.m. until the 2 a.m. closing time. Where they were between then and the accident was unknown, police said.

Maj. Bert Shirey, commander of the Northeastern District, where both officers were assigned, said, "Sergeant Harris was well liked and respected in the station house. He will be missed very much."

Sergeant Harris was assigned to the Northeastern District in 1990 upon his promotion. He supervised six officers assigned to foot and bicycle patrols in communities along Sinclair Lane.

"He was the kind of sergeant I liked because he got the job done," Major Shirey said. "Tell him what you want done and you are assured that you didn't have to follow up with him all the time."

Sergeant Harris is survived by his wife Phyllis, a 15-year-old daughter, and 11- and 7-year-old sons.

Family members said they did not want to talk about the accident. The sergeant's neighbor, John Irlbacher, a retired 25-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department, said the sergeant was "friendly with everyone in the neighborhood."

His death, Mr. Irlbacher said, choking back sobs, "hits a little hard."

The sergeant supervised Officer Schmidt, who patrolled on foot in the Hollander Ridge neighborhood. He has a wife and two children.

"He was just a very enthusiastic and dedicated officer," Major Shirey said. "He definitely made a difference in that neighborhood. I remember seeing him walking patrol with mud up to his belt. He said he just chased a drug suspect through the woods. He was right back on patrol without cleaning himself up."

Police said the car driven by Sergeant Harris and a 1994 Chevrolet pickup driven by George E. Young, 37, of the 3800 block of Dunsmuir Circle in Middle River, were headed east on Pulaski Highway.

A police source said witnesses gave investigators two accounts. In one, Sergeant Harris tried to make a U-turn in front of the truck. In the other, the sergeant failed to make a U-turn and was backing up in the street when his car was struck.

The police spokesman, Mr. Ringgold, said the pickup truck hit the Mustang near the driver's-side door.

Two other people in the Mustang also were injured. Colleen Sneed, 32, of the 4800 block of Richard Ave., a barmaid at McCallister's, was listed in critical condition at Bayview. Her roommate, Joseph Huff, 22, a cook at the bar, was treated and released from Franklin Square Hospital.

The driver of the truck, Mr. Young, also was treated and released from Franklin Square Hospital.

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