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High-speed chase raises safety concerns

November 14, 1996

11/14/96

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Tom Immer got a close look at Wednesday morning's police chase of a fleeing bank robbery suspect, and he's not happy with what he saw.

"There's no excuse for a 100 mph chase through town,'' said Immer, who watched as the suspect's car plowed into his Ford Taurus, which was parked in front of his 1020 Oak Hill Ave. home.

The chase reached speeds of up to 85 mph in a 40 mph zone on Eastern Boulevard, according to court documents.

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Immer said that he was upset by the damage to his car, but said his main concern was safety.

"What if it had been 2:30 p.m. and kids were coming home from school?'' Immer said. "Chases like that just shouldn't be allowed.''

The sounds of sirens filled the air as the chase moved along Jefferson Boulevard past Antietam Drive to Eastern Boulevard.

It continued onto Mealey Parkway, to Irvin Avenue, View Street, to Manila and back onto Oak Hill and then to Prospect Avenue and west on Park Place.

City, county and state police chased the vehicle south onto Potomac Avenue to McComas Street and then to North Mulberry.

From there, the car was channeled onto North Mulberry and into an alley, when the chase came to abrupt halt when it hit the fence bordering Hagerstown Fairgrounds.

Immer said many of the streets on the chase's course are residential.

"It is absurd,'' Immer said.

William Moats, of 436 N. Mulberry St., said he was on the telephone when he heard sirens coming from all directions.

"When I went out front, I saw police running down the street toward the alley,'' Moats said. The chase ended in the alley, just yards from Moats' back yard.

"High speed chases? I think they are a necessary evil,'' Moats said.

Area police agencies have discretionary policies concerning high-speed chases. Factors such as identity of the suspect, whether the suspect is armed and the proximity to other jurisdictions are taken into consideration.

Sgt. Mark Knight of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said the fact the robbery suspect had a gun was a major factor in the Wednesday morning chase.

But Immer said that if a man has a gun and is standing in a crowd of unarmed people, police shouldn't have the right to fire at that man.

As far as the damage to his vehicle is concerned, Immer said he isn't happy with how that was handled.

"The police came back later and told me `tough luck' as far as insurance is concerned,'' Immer said.

Knight said Immer will be provided with insurance information for the car driven by Clark.

"That was the only civilian car that we know was damaged in the chase,'' Knight said of Immer's car.

A number of street and road signs were damaged, but they were replaced by the City of Hagerstown almost immediately, Knight said.

Deputy 1st Class Paul Boyer's cruiser sustained moderate damage, Knight said.

Anyone with damage to report in connection with the chase may call 791-3020 and ask for patrol, Knight said.

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