RALEIGH, N.C. -- Antwion Pulley and his wife went to his brother's house for breakfast Wednesday morning when his wife saw a newscast about a fatal accident involving a moped occurring on Skycrest Drive.
"I thought about it, but not much," said Pulley, who works in the produce section of a Food Lion on Raleigh Boulevard, near the site of the crash. "We got back home about 30 minutes later and here comes an officer calling me, telling me it was my bike."
The relatively minor theft of Pulley's scooter more than two weeks ago culminated early Wednesday when two young men riding the stolen machine were caught between two Raleigh police cruisers on separate law enforcement missions.
Shortly after 3 a.m., Officer J.H. Crews clocked a motorist going westbound on Skycrest Drive at 55 mph -- 20 miles over the posted speed limit -- and was attempting to catch up to the vehicle to pull it over.
Meanwhile, Officer D.L. Riley had spotted the scooter carrying Maurice Antonio Harden, 20, and Trindell Devon Thomas, 21, along on Skycrest Drive a few minutes earlier and noticed it had a malfunctioning headlight.
Riley intended to catch up with the scooter and pull it over, but had not yet initiated the pursuit when it crossed the centerline at 3:16 a.m. and crashed head-on with Crews' cruiser just east of Brentwood Road in northeast Raleigh, according to police spokesman Jim Sughrue.
Both Harden and Thomas were thrown from the scooter and pronounced dead at the scene, according to the accident report that listed Crews as traveling 76 mph and the scooter 47 mph when they collided. The scooter became lodged under the front of the cruiser, which dragged it 267 feet before coming to a stop in the eastbound lane.
Crews was treated at the scene for minor injuries. Riley witnessed the crash, police said, adding that the speeder was not caught.
Pulley, of Raleigh, reported to police on May 19 that someone had taken his black-and-silver Chinese scooter, which could reach maximum speeds between 60 mph and 65 mph. He said the moped had been parked with a chain and lock on the back tire by the front door of his home on Booker Drive, less than a mile away from Wednesday's crash.
"The big chain wasn't locked," Pulley said. "It had to be more than one person (stealing it) to lift it up and put it in the truck."
Victims had troubled lives
Harden worked full-time as a dishwasher at the Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in North Hills mall, said family member Aisha Flood, 31, of Raleigh. He had also found part-time work at the Fox and Hound Bar and Grill, another North Hills restaurant.
He loved drawing, she said, and had enrolled to begin tattoo classes in August.
But Harden had a troublesome criminal history. Police in March charged him with felony possession of cocaine. He failed to appear in court for the charges on May 28, state records show.
Flood last spoke with Harden on Tuesday.
"He told me he loved me and that he had changed his life and was doing better," she said.
Thea Smiley, a family friend, agreed.
"He was a changed person," she said. "He was a great guy who had learned from his mistakes and was striving to do something positive."
Trindell Thomas's family members could not be reached for comment. He turned 21 on May 14. Last week, he celebrated the birth of his daughter, according to Tia White, a family friend.
"Best day ever!!" the baby's mother wrote under a Facebook picture that showed the beaming parents with their newborn on Monday before leaving the hospital. "And shout out to my lover Trindell, for being there thru the whole thing . Mwahh babyy love yuu."
Scenes from a school bus
Pamela Sanders, who works as a school bus monitor for Wake County Public Schools, said on Wednesday that Thomas was one of the students who rode her bus. By the school year's end, Sanders said Thomas was one of the kids who helped keep the other bus riders in line. She last spoke with him about a year ago.
Thomas also has had his share of past legal problems. He was released from prison on Sept. 11 after serving six months for multiple counts of felony breaking and entering, according to state records.
"He was a cool guy, just a teenager doing what teenagers do," Sanders said. "I know people are going to look at his record and say he stayed in trouble, but I don't think that's got a lot to do with it. He didn't deserve to die."
White, 21, of Raleigh, grew up in the same neighborhood with Thomas. She described him as "like a little brother" who always hung out at their home since middle school. She still has a crumpled copy of his junior varsity basketball certificate from Athens Drive High School.
Following the speeder
Sughrue pointed out that even though the posted speed limit on Skycrest Drive is 35 mph, the speeding car was clocked at 55 mph and that Crews, who had not turned on his blue lights or siren when the crash occurred, was attempting to catch up with the speeding passenger car when the crash occurred. Sughrue said it was typical for an officer not to turn on lights or a siren until his cruiser has caught up with the speeder.
"It necessitated his going faster in his attempt to catch up to it and take law enforcement action," he said.
The accident is under review by the police department to determine whether the officers followed department policy, Sughrue said.
Copyright 2013 - The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
McClatchy-Tribune News Service