Griev­ing fam­ily seeks re­form

Protests en­cour­age cit­i­zens not to run from po­lice stops

Maryland Independent - - News - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­news.com Twitter: @CalRecTAMARA

A South­ern Mary­land fam­ily has taken its pain and turned it into pur­pose through peace­ful protest.

“No chase. No run. Ev­ery­body goes home,” chants Aubrey Robin­son of Ac­co­keek, at the busy in­ter­sec­tion of routes 4 and 231 at 5 p.m. in Prince Fred­er­ick on July 29.

His son, Tabias Robin­son, 24, died from in­juries suf­fered in an au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dent af­ter flee­ing from an un­marked po­lice car April 4.

Robin­son was joined by a dozen fam­ily mem­bers and sup­port­ers seek­ing to re­form po­lice pol­icy around high-speed pur­suits, as well as en­cour­age cit­i­zens not to run from the po­lice.

“We are not only protest­ing the chase; we are protest­ing the run,” added Robin­son. “It’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one in­no­cent gets hurt.”

Ac­cord­ing to an April 4 Mary­land State Po­lice press re­lease, the high-speed pur­suit started af­ter 12:30 a.m. on Route 4 in Solomons and ended at the St. Mary’s Fair­grounds in Leonard­town. The trooper “ob­served a south­bound BMW fol­low­ing an­other car and fail­ing to dim its head­lights. As the car passed he also saw the ve­hi­cle had no work­ing tag light.”

Elena Russo from MSP’s Of­fice of Me­dia Com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­firmed with The Calvert Recorder that the trooper on duty work­ing speed en­force­ment was in an un­marked MSP pa­trol ve­hi­cle.

“The ini­tial stop was on the tag light, but he didn’t stop be­cause he had not seen his pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer. That’s why he ran,” ex­plained Robin­son, who said that his son was on pro­ba­tion for a mis­de­meanor pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana from five years ear­lier.

“I wish he had just called me in­stead of run. I would have picked him up,” lamented Robin­son, who has a host of con­cerns sur­round­ing the pur­suit that oc­curred on a rainy night and what he cat­e­go­rizes as de­layed and in­ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­cal care for Tabias. “There ain’t noth­ing I can do to bring my son back, but if I can do some­thing to keep other peo­ple safe, then I will.”

So armed with a bull horn, Robin­son tries via area protests to dis­cour­age the chas­ing by po­lice and the run­ning by cit­i­zens. This one was his third, fol­low­ing one in St. Mary’s and a prior one in Prince Fred­er­ick. More are planned for the South­ern Mary­land re­gion.

At an ad­ja­cent cor­ner on July 29 is his niece, Crys­tal Chase, who was protest­ing out of con­cern of the ex­tent of the chase. “I’m not say­ing [Tabias] was per­fect, but to chase him 15 miles over a tag light be­ing out,” Chase paused. “We’ve all done some­thing in our past that we are not proud of, but that doesn’t mean we should be chased for 15 miles un­til we crash and die.”

Chase has par­tic­i­pated in the ear­lier protests and said peo­ple have said some very mean-spir­ited things to her fam­ily dur­ing the protests and on so­cial me­dia. Her re­sponse: “I hope your child never has a sit­u­a­tion where they make the wrong choice to run from the po­lice.”

“A lot of the young African-Amer­i­can males are afraid to stop. They are scared for their life and they don’t know how it is go­ing to go if they get pulled over. Is it go­ing to be a bad po­lice of­fi­cer or a good po­lice of­fi­cer?” said Shan­ick Chase of Wal­dorf, protest­ing with her daugh­ter, Malia, 13, and son, Jay­den, 7, safely on the side­walk in front of a mat­tress store. “It’s not just here; it’s ev­ery­where.”

Robin­son said he re­cently wit­nessed a high-speed chase in­volv­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle and Calvert County sher­iff’s deputies re­port­edly top­ping 140 mph on Route 4. “Stop the high­speed chase. There’s too much at risk,” said Robin­son. “All they could get him for is flee­ing and elud­ing and a speed­ing ticket and that is not worth a life.” He has found in his re­search that de­part­ments in neigh­bor­ing ju­ris­dic­tions Prince Ge­orge’s and Anne Arun­del have a two-mile pur­suit limit.

Since his son’s death, he re­ports there have been five dif­fer­ent po­lice chases in the tri-county area. He sug­gest today’s tech­nol­ogy al­lows law en­force­ment de­part­ments to put drones in the air to track sus­pects when the chase be­comes a dan­ger to the pub­lic.

“Stop the run­ning — the ve­hi­cle will be­come a weapon,” coun­ters Robin­son, in his ef­fort to en­cour­age young guys to just stop.

By­stander Sirquron Brooks of Lusby knows all too well what could hap­pen in a high-speed chase. In late March, Brooks was sit­ting in his car at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 231 and Prince Fred­er­ick Boule­vard, af­ter leav­ing Calvert Li­brary Prince Fred­er­ick, when a sus­pect driv­ing a truck in a high­speed chase in­volv­ing Calvert deputies hit a pole and flipped over onto his car.

“I could have died,” said Brooks, who re­ported in­cur­ring in­juries to his back, leg and neck and was re­leased from the hospi­tal the next day. “The po­lice al­most hit me. There was too much traf­fic for po­lice to chase him on that one-lane road.”

The ac­ci­dent was caught on an episode of “Live PD.” “There ain’t enough crime in this county for Live PD,” said Robin­son, sug­gest­ing the show has en­cour­aged rogue be­hav­ior and risky prac­tices in the de­part­ment.

“No run, no chase — in that or­der. We are in agree­ment in that,” said Capt. Dave Payne of the Calvert County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, in an in­ter­view with the Recorder. “We rather see no run­ning, no chas­ing, no deaths on the road.”

Payne did not have in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing Brooks’ ac­ci­dent at the time of the in­ter­view, but he did share the de­part­ment’s ex­ten­sive pol­icy on pur­suits, which per­mits “deputies to en­gage in ex­tended/high-speed ve­hi­cle pur­suit when it is nec­es­sary to ap­pre­hend a vi­o­la­tor of the laws of this State.” How­ever, the pol­icy does list lim­it­ing fac­tors that af­fect the de­ci­sion to be­gin and con­tinue the pur­suit, to in­clude the na­ture of the of­fense, traf­fic den­sity and dan­ger to the pub­lic.

“Mi­nus all those fac­tors, the su­per­vi­sor or deputy that is in pur­suit has the right to aban­don it,” ex­plained Payne. El­e­ments a deputy can con­sider when aban­don­ing a chase in­clude if the risk to the deputy and the pub­lic is un­nec­es­sar­ily high, the risk is in­con­sis­tent with the sever­ity of the vi­o­la­tion and the high­way and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions are not con­ducive to a con­tin­ued safe pur­suit.

“The de­ci­sion re­gard­ing whether to ini­ti­ate a pur­suit oc­curs at the point when a trooper has a rea­son­able be­lief that the driver of the sub­ject ve­hi­cle is know­ingly fail­ing to stop in re­sponse to a trooper’s vis­ual and au­di­ble sig­nals,” reads an ex­cerpt on MSP’s pol­icy on pur­suits, shared by Russo with the Recorder. It was not clear at press time what their fac­tors are for aban­don­ing a pur­suit.

While Tabias’ dad has chan­neled his grief into pol­icy change, his mother, Tammy Byrd, is strug­gling to come to terms with her son’s death. She at­tended Satur­day’s protest, but sat back qui­etly in a park­ing lot, lend­ing moral sup­port from afar while watch­ing over her 5-year-old grand­daugh­ter, Har­mony — Tabias’ only child.

Har­mony said a prayer for her fa­ther, while she blessed her food, and then be­gan to chant “no chase — no run, ev­ery­body comes home.”

“I can’t eat. I can’t sleep,” Byrd said tear­fully, adding that she leans on Isa­iah 30:15 for strength, es­pe­cially when peo­ple are un­kind about the cir­cum­stances of her son’s death. “Ev­ery­body has a com­ment, but no­body [else] has lost their child.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY TA­MARA WARD

Crys­tal Chase of St. Leonard protests against high-speed po­lice chases and runs at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 231 and Route 4 in Prince Fred­er­ick on Satur­day. In the dis­tance, other pro­test­ers flank the op­po­site cor­ners hold­ing signs de­mand­ing po­lice pur­suit re­form.

Aubrey Robin­son of Ac­co­keek protests against high-speed po­lice chases and runs at the in­ter­sec­tion of Route 231 and Route 4 in Prince Fred­er­ick. Robin­son’s son, Tabias, died dur­ing a po­lice chase in April. His sis­ter, Aleta Chase of St. Leonard, stands in the dis­tance hold­ing a sign.

From left, Oc­tavia Ford, Malia Speight and Jay­den Bow­man hold up signs to protest against high-speed po­lice chases and runs in the tri-county area.

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