Officials identify teen killed in crash following 30-mile police pursuit (2024)

D.C. police have identified a teenager who died Tuesday afternoon in a fiery crash following a 30-mile police chase but say medical examiners are working to identify the second person killed in the collision.

Police said Wednesday that 17-year-old Dashawn Harris died at the scene after the BMW he was traveling in crested a hill in the 4100 block of Southern Avenue SE, crashed into a tree and caught fire.

A third teenager in the car, 19-year-old Demetri Koger, survived and was taken to a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries; D.C. police have charged him with being a fugitive from justice.

The crash was preceded by a lengthy police chase through multiple jurisdictions, starting near Annapolis and traveling through both Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties on their way into the District, where U.S. Park Police joined the pursuit. Anne Arundel County police said they initiated the chase because they suspected the car was connected to multiple armed robberies.

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The aftermath of the fatal crash has left grieving relatives unsettled, questioning the length of the chase.

“Why are you chasing a car that’s going that fast?” said Terrina Riley, who used to be in a relationship with Harris’s father. Riley, 34, said she was a mother figure to Harris and rushed to the crash site Tuesday afternoon.

Harris had several siblings and two daughters of his own, she said. Koger, the teen arrested at the scene, is one of Harris’s brothers, Riley said.

D.C. police said in a news release Wednesday that the BMW was traveling at high speed when it lost control, veered right and mounted the curb. It struck a tree with such force that the vehicle split in half, with the front part rotating until it stopped against an iron fence.

At a news conference Tuesday, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Amal Awad issued a blanket defense of her officers’ actions, citing the vehicle’s alleged connection to multiple armed robberies and a policy that authorizes police to pursue vehicles involved in felonies and saying that she “fully support[s]” officers in the decisions they make about pursuits.

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On Wednesday, Anne Arundel police spokesman Justin Mulcahy said the actions by that force’s officers “were in full compliance with our policy” but declined to publicly share the department’s pursuit policy “due to tactical operations and investigative techniques that are contained within the policy.”

An Anne Arundel police spokesman said county police pursued the car into the District but then “became the secondary agency” and were not close to the car when it crashed.

U.S. Park Police referred questions about the investigation to D.C. police but pointed to the pursuit policy on their website, which has been in effect since 2018. According to the policy, Park Police are allowed to chase a vehicle when the suspect is wanted for a felony involving violence or the threat of violence, which includes crimes such as homicide, sexual assault and robbery. They are also allowed to chase vehicles if the suspect inside “is wanted for or has committed a felony and is in known possession of a firearm.”

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The policy also says that when Park Police are involved in pursuits, they must follow all federal or applicable state laws if they are more restrictive than the Park Police policy.

In D.C., the law — which lawmakers relaxed in a bill they passed in March — is more strict. It says officers can only engage in a vehicular pursuit if they have exhausted all other options. Officers must also believe a fleeing suspect has committed or attempted to commit a violent crime or poses imminent threat of serious harm to another person, according to the law. The law also only allows police to pursue a suspect if they believe it immediately necessary to protect another person from harm, and if they believe the chase is not likely to seriously injure anyone except the fleeing suspect.

A Park Police spokesman declined to answer questions about whether D.C.’s laws applied to its officers during the D.C. portion of the pursuit, writing in an email that “the evaluation of policy is part of the ongoing investigation.”

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Karl Bickel, a former Justice Department policy analyst on community-oriented policing, said based on the publicly available information, he believes the chase was unjustified because it put members of the public at risk.

“I just don’t see where you can justify a chase like that, particularly that time of day, and for 30 miles,” said Bickel, who is also a former second-in-command at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and a former D.C. police officer. “The decision to pursue or not should be based on the danger it imposes to the public, not the seriousness of the offense.”

Even if someone is a suspect in robberies, Bickel said, police could find other opportunities to capture them later to avoid endangering members of the public driving or walking in proximity of a pursuit.

Koger remains in surgery and is scheduled for an initial court appearance Thursday. He was charged last year in Prince George’s County for having a loaded handgun in a vehicle and sentenced earlier this year to six months of home detention and two years of supervised probation, according to court records. Anne Arundel police have not charged Koger in connection with the robberies they allege were connected with the BMW.

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“Detectives are still investigating to determine what incidents the suspects were connected to in Anne Arundel County,” Mulcahy said in an email.

An attorney was not listed for Koger in D.C., and his listed attorney in the Prince George’s County case declined to comment on the gun charges.

As she stood at the scene Tuesday, Riley said life was sometimes hard for Harris. But she recalled how he liked to make arts and crafts as a child and remembered with a chuckle how much he hated potty training. She will remember him as a whip-smart kid who remembered random facts he learned in school, such as the circumferences of different planets.

“He’s going to be missed,” Riley said.

Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.

Officials identify teen killed in crash following 30-mile police pursuit (2024)

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