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Officer 'fighting for his life' after pursuit police said should have stopped

Baltimore police are investigating an accident involving officers and a suspect in the area of Bonaparte Avenue in East Baltimore.
Baltimore police are investigating an accident involving officers and a suspect in the area of Bonaparte Avenue in East Baltimore. (Maggie Ybarra/Special to the Baltimore Sun)

One Baltimore police officer remained in grave condition Monday after the patrol car he was in slammed into a telephone pole Sunday afternoon after continuing a pursuit his commanding officer had called off.

A female officer, who also was in the car, remained in critical but stable condition with broken bones. The crash also involved the driver of a moped police said the officers had pursued, who was also injured and is hospitalized.

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"One officer at this moment is fighting for his life at [Maryland] Shock Trauma [Center]," Baltimore police Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said.

The crash occurred about 1 p.m. Sunday in Northwest Baltimore. The incident began after an officer saw a group of dirt bikers assembling in an alley, police said. Upon being spotted by police, the riders fled on their bikes, except one man who ran. The officer followed in his marked patrol car and saw the man hop on the back of a moped that stopped to pick him up.

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Patrol officers in the area caught and lost sight of the pair on the scooter at various times, Rodriguez said. Spotting it, three officers in a patrol car gave chase, Rodriguez said. The scooter at that time was only carrying a driver.

Baltimore police have a strict policy that allows officers to pursue if the vehicles they are chasing carry suspects who pose immediate and serious threats to the public. Officers must get permission from a shift commander to pursue.

In this case, a sergeant told the three officers to discontinue the chase, Rodriguez said. Fifteen seconds later, officers called for paramedics, he said.

The patrol car had continued the pursuit and crashed into a telephone pole in the 2200 block of Kirk Ave. after the scooter made a hard turn into an alley, police said.

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Rodriguez said police don't know why the officers disobeyed an order to stop.

"We want to know why," Rodriguez said. "We have more questions than answers, but we are attempting to get those answers."

Rodriguez said forensics investigators and members of police's CRASH team were called to retrace the moments preceding the crash. A police helicopter was also used to survey the crash site and map the route the pursuit had taken.

The third officer in the patrol car, a man, was not hurt. Rodriguez said investigators want to know why three police officers were in the patrol car. Marked cars are meant to carry no more than two officers.

While dirt bikes are illegal in the city, the moped was a licensed city vehicle, Rodriguez said. Fleeing police was the only violation the driver could be cited for, he added. No charges have been filed against the rider.

Baltimore police's Force Investigation Team, which reviews shootings and other serious incidents in which police force is used, is investigating.

Police did not release the name of the moped driver or the three officers, who Rodriguez said ranged in experience from a few years to about a decade on the job.

Police said the dirt bikers had assembled in the alley to attend a large motorcycle rally that was held a few hours later.

Scores of dirt bikers and spectators took to the streets around Druid Hill Park on Sunday afternoon for a memorial ride in honor of Devin Rankin, known among riders as "Lor Dev." Rankin was shot to death Thursday in the 4600 block of Mannasota Ave. in a killing that remains unsolved.

Some on social media referred to him as the "No-hands king" because of his ability to ride on one wheel without steering.

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An earlier version of this story misstated how long it took for paramedics to be called. The Sun regrets the error. 

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