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Deputies in chase back on 'normal duty'

March 20, 2004|By GREGORY T. SIMMONS

The two Washington County deputies who were involved in a pursuit Thursday that resulted in a fatal single-car accident in Frederick County, Md., returned to "normal duty" Friday, Washington County Sheriff's Lt. Randy Wilkinson said.

Russell Nelson Freeman Jr., 42, was driving a 1998 Pontiac Sunfire Thursday matching the description of a car he allegedly stole earlier this week when Deputy 1st Class David Norford saw Freeman.

Norford was joined in the pursuit by Deputy 1st Class Mark Keys, Wilkinson said, and after a pursuit that at points exceeded 100 mph, Freeman's car struck a tree along U.S. 40 near Easterday Road.

Wilkinson said Friday that he was collecting reports from the deputies and other department officials and early next week would compile the reports and forward them to other officials, including Sheriff Charles Mades, for a review to determine if any procedures had been violated.

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Wilkinson said if policies were violated, the review could result in administrative, motor vehicle or criminal charges.

However, "we don't see anything to indicate ... (the deputies) violated policies," Wilkinson said. "I don't see a problem."

Wilkinson on Friday described further the moments that led to the crash.

He said just before noon Thursday, the sheriff's office put out a radio broadcast that Freeman was wanted on charges and was in the area of White Hall Road.

According to Washington County District Court information, Freeman was charged in two separate arrest warrants this week with domestic- and theft-related charges.

Wilkinson said Norford and Keys, who work in the sheriff's judicial division, both were serving court papers in the area. At the intersection of Beaver Creek Church and White Hall roads, Norford saw a car matching the broadcast description.

At that point, Wilkinson said, Norford activated his emergency lights in an attempt to pull the car over. Instead, the car sped off.

At that point, Wilkinson said, "there's a lot of things that are taken into account" as to whether a pursuit should continue, including the history of the driver, the geographic area and weather conditions.

Wilkinson, the supervisor for the sheriff's patrol division, said he and his supervisor, Capt. Douglas Mullendore, were both in cars listening to their radios when the incident began. A duty officer was at patrol headquarters monitoring the situation as well.

Wilkinson said because the chase at that point was considered a "hot" or "fresh" pursuit, the deputies could follow Freeman into Frederick County, which is what happened.

Wilkinson said police in Frederick County already were setting up "stop sticks," or tire puncturing devices, on U.S. 40 on the other side of South Mountain as Freeman, Norford and Keys approached. But before he reached the waiting officers, Freeman's car struck the tree.

Wilkinson said in addition to the internal reports he is collecting, staff will consider the accident report from Maryland State Police in Frederick. He said the review likely will conclude next week.

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