Officer struck at Vista Gardens sheds light on pedestrian risks

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Shoppers grocery store located at Vista Gardens Marketplace in Lanham, Maryland. Photo taken Oct. 15, 2022.

An off-duty officer who was struck and critically injured Sept. 30 at the Vista Gardens shopping center near Bowie is a grim reminder of the growing safety risks to pedestrians.

In Bowie, pedestrian fatalities increased by 4.8% in 2020 over the previous year, according to data from the Bowie Police Department's traffic safety unit. For the past six years, pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise in the city, Bowie Police found.

It is a tragic trend that local residents may not be aware of as they go about their daily driving. 

Maryland Del. Andrea Fletcher Harrison (D-District 24) told the Bowie Sun that none of her constituents had expressed pedestrian safety concerns to her office directly. Still, she indicated that the accident involving off-duty D.C. officer Kenneth Daniels was an "eye opening" issue that may need to be addressed.  

"As a driver, you have a responsibility to be, I guess, defensive and making sure that you are aware of your surroundings," said Harrison, whose district includes parts of the Bowie area as well as Vista Gardens Marketplace in Lanham.

Daniels was walking in the Vista Gardens parking lot when he was struck by a vehicle and critically injured, according to a press release from the Prince George’s County Police Department. Daniels, an officer in the violent crime suppression unit of the Metropolitan Police Department, had just left the grocery store with his mother when he was struck, Robert Contee, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, said at a televised press briefing.

The Vista Gardens incident occurred just as National Pedestrian Safety Month was set to begin, Veronica Marshall, the public information director for Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department, pointed out. Pedestrian Safety Month, which runs throughout the month of October, calls on drivers to look for pedestrians at all times.  The safety awareness effort also urges local officials to increase safety by creating more walkable communities and well-designed roads.  

More than 6,500 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 55,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes nationwide in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  In 2019, the number of U.S. pedestrian fatalities was 6,205.

The driver who struck Daniels initially fled the scene. But after a description of the involved SUV was broadcast to all officers in the area, officers recognized it in the same parking lot driving towards the scene of the collision, police said. The officers stopped the vehicle without any resistance from the suspect.

Harrison said,"I would caution all drivers, both experienced and inexperienced, to pay attention to their surroundings and their vehicles, especially going through parking lots, because you never know when someone may come out from between two parked cars or step off the curb. The pedestrian could very well even be distracted."

Police said there was no indication Daniels was hit on purpose, but the investigation is ongoing. Information on the suspect’s identity has not yet been released to the public.

Daniels was hospitalized and is said to have been in critical but stable condition. Meaning, there was not yet any surgical intervention at the time after initial tests, Dr. Tom-meka Archinard, chief medical officer for the University of Maryland Capital Health, told reporters.

A citizen that observed the incident notified officers nearby who were able to administer first aid and get information on the victim, Malik Aziz, chief of Prince George's County Police Department, said during the press briefing. 



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