A Prince George's County police officer, who started as an Explorer with the department when he was a teenager, was killed Monday afternoon while pursuing a possible theft suspect.
Authorities say Officer Adrian Morris, 23, a two and one-half year member of the force, died after he was a ejected from the cruiser in which he was in and suffered massive head injuries in the crash on Interstate 95 near Beltsille, according to a news release from the police department and information from the local television station reported onNBC4.com.
The passenger police officer, on the agency for one year, was released from the hospital after being treated for minor injuries.
"It's tragic," Police Chief Mark Magaw told reporters during a press conference. "But it just shows the courage and dedication of these officers."
Police are investigating to see if the suspect in the Acura ran the cruiser off the road.
"This is a family, and all of Prince George's County government is going to wrap its arms around these two officers and the rest of their colleagues to make sure we get through this," County Executive Rushern Baker said during the press conference.
According to a news release issued by the department officers assigned to the District 6 (Laurel/Beltsville) station were dispatched to the Shell gas station at 6600 Sandy Spring Road in Laurel at 11:50 a.m. for an attempted theft from an automobile that had just occurred. Two suspects in a gray Acura with a temporary license plate unsuccessfully tried to open the car doors of a customer's car before fleeing from the gas station.
As responding police officers were on the scene interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, a gas station employee noticed the suspect vehicle as it returned to the gas station. The on-scene police officers were alerted, and they returned to their police car and drove after the suspect vehicle, read the police statement.
The police officers, riding together as a two-person patrol car, caught up with the suspect vehicle on I-95 southbound and communicated their observations to the dispatcher. The police car left the roadway during this apparent pursuit and crashed into a nearby ditch.
Morris was ejected from the vehicle during the crash and was pronounced dead a short time later at a local hospital.
Morris joined the PGPD after volunteering as a police explorer for five years. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica, raised in Laurel, and became a U.S. citizen in 2009. Police Officer Morris graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in 2007. He continued his association with the police explorers as an advisor and mentor after joining the police department. Police Officer Morris resided in Laurel.
"Police Officer Morris represented the very best that our agency has to offer," said Chief Magaw. "He wanted to be a Prince George's County police officer from a very young age, and it showed in all of his interactions with the community."
A Crime Solvers, Inc. reward of up to $25,000 has been authorized for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the motorist who contributed to the death of Police Officer Morris.
(Editor's Note: At 9:50 a.m., local television station WJLA ABC 7 reported that an accomplice who allegedly was involved in the fatal crash was in custody.)