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Chase ends in death

March 19, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Russell Nelson Freeman Jr. spent about an hour at his father's apartment in Hagerstown Tuesday night, two days before he died during a police chase Thursday.

Russell Freeman Sr., 61, said his son took off a gold chain and his wedding band and handed it to him that night.

"He didn't want to live no more," the elder Freeman said Thursday night.

Washington County Sheriff's Lt. Randy Wilkinson said in a release Thursday that Russell Nelson Freeman Jr. died Thursday after a crash in which his vehicle struck a tree along U.S. 40 in Frederick County, Md.

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Freeman, 42, was trapped in his vehicle for about 20 minutes before being flown to Washington County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Wilkinson said.

Freeman's father, contacted at his Hagerstown home, said his son had been in jail before, but "was a good fella. ... He just was the type of fella who couldn't accept things when they came down."

Russell Freeman Jr. was charged this week in two separate warrants with theft- and domestic-related offenses, according to Washington County District Court information.

In one warrant lodged Tuesday, Freeman was charged with two counts of violation of a protective order, both misdemeanors, District Court Commissioner Timothy Haven said.

In a second warrant, Freeman was charged with another protective order violation, one count of unlawful taking of a motor vehicle - a felony - and one count of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor, Haven said.

The elder Freeman said that when his son stopped by Tuesday night he told him "he couldn't handle this and couldn't handle this."

Freeman's father said his son was married, but was separated from his wife. He said his son grew up in Hagerstown, and recently had moved back here from Annapolis because of a court date in Washington County unrelated to this week's charges.

"I tried to talk to him ... try to tell him to give his self up. ... He wouldn't talk about it," Russell Freeman Sr. said.

"I said, 'Russell, they'll get you.' But he said, 'The only way they'll get me is if they run me down,'" Russell Freeman Sr. said.

Just before noon Thursday, police received information that Freeman might be in the area of White Hall Road, Wilkinson said.

Minutes later, Deputy 1st Class David Norford saw a car matching the description of a Pontiac that Freeman was known to be driving at the intersection of Beaver Creek Church Road and White Hall Road, according to a release from Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Jim Bonneville and Wilkinson.

When Norford activated his emergency lights in an attempt to stop the car, it drove away. Norford began chasing the car as it turned onto National Pike, and Deputy 1st Class Mark Keys joined the chase shortly after, police said.

Maryland State Police and the Frederick County Sheriff's Department were notified as the chase moved toward the Frederick County line, at times reaching speeds of more than 100 mph, police said.

About two miles later, on U.S. 40 in Frederick County, the vehicle veered off the right side of the road, went up an embankment and returned to the road. It traveled for several hundred feet before crashing into a tree on the right side of the road near Easterday Road, police said.

Police identified the driver as Freeman.

Police said Freeman was trapped inside the Pontiac for about 20 minutes before emergency workers from the Myersville Volunteer Fire Department were able to free him. A Maryland State Police helicopter flew Freeman to Washington County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Maryland State Police were investigating the accident, and Wilkinson said the Sheriff's Office will conduct an internal review of the chase to see if any policies were violated.

The elder Freeman said he last saw his son on the way to work Wednesday, when his son honked at him on the road. They pulled over, and he gave his father a bag full of compact discs, and asked him to give them to family members.

"He said, 'I love you,' and that was it," Russell Freeman Sr. said.

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