It looked like a scene from COPS when a high speed chase ended with a crash and an accidental firing of a police weapon. Mount Vernon resident Terry Carter saw it all, or at least most of it.
Shortly before 9 a.m. on March 12, Carter was driving down Fort Hunt Road with his wife, Rosalie. He looked in the mirror and saw an old Toyota Camry approaching very quickly; hot on its tail was a Fairfax County Police cruiser.
"I knew immediately what was going on," said Carter.
It was a high speed chase and it was going down the middle of Fort Hunt Road.
"It turned Fort Hunt Road into a three-lane road," said Carter, who covered courts and police for the Virginia Pilot and other publications. "I was an old cop reporter and rode with cops."
Carter was returning to his home office in Hollin Hall, where he now does his writing for the Journal of the American Bar Association.
He and Rosalie tried to watch the events unfold, losing sight of the cars as they went down the hill. It wasn't long before the chase came to an end.
AT THE INTERSECTION of Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane, 39-year-old Dean Dao ran the red light and crashed into a Hyundai Accent, driven by a 64-year-old Alexandria area woman. The Hyundai then struck an Acura, driven by a 32-year-old Alexandria area man, which was stopped on Sherwood Hall Lane.
The officer approached the driver, and Dao became uncooperative, according to police. He also attempted to drive his car away from the officer. As the officer attempted to break the driver's window to remove Dao from the car, the officer's gun accidentally fired. No one was injured by the gunfire.
Dao was placed under arrest after a brief struggle. Dao, the driver of the Hyundai and the officer were all taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The driver of the Acura was not injured.
FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE had attempted to stop Dao that same day at around 9 a.m. on Richmond Highway near Huntington Road because the officer's computer showed that the tags on the car didn't belong to the vehicle. When police tried to stop him, Dao continued driving and the pursuit continued onto Fort Hunt Road.
Fairfax County Public Information Officer Jackie Smith said that high speed chases are allowed in the county as long as they are approved by the Sergeant, which in this case it was.
Lt. Joe Hill said that he was the fourth or fifth officer on the scene and that Dao was very erratic and they thought at first that he was intoxicated. Hill was not the pursuing officer, but said that an officer has the autonomy to initiate pursuit in Fairfax County. The supervisor takes into account the time of day and traffic. If a pursuing officer sees that the driver is erratic, then he can make the determination to stop.
Hill said, however, even when the chase is called off, in many cases the driver still continues to speed and an accident can still occur. The county is not liable for damages caused in accidents; it is the responsibility of the driver who caused the crash. If he does not have sufficient insurance to cover the claim, then the injured parties can use the Uninsured Motorists Coverage.
Dao was arrested and charged with multiple offenses including felony speed to elude, driving on a suspended license, and obstruction of justice. He was taken to the Adult Detention Center and turned over to the Office of the Sheriff. It was later determined that Dao was driving a stolen car and that there was a warrant for his arrest from Maryland.