Vernia and Terry Harrell were supposed to grow old together. They were supposed to host cookouts and play with their grandbabies.
Vernia will have to do those things without him.
Terry Harrell, 58, died at a hospital June 23. Two days earlier, Baltimore police officer Alexis Acosta, with lights and sirens on, sped through a red light at the intersection of East Biddle Street and North Milton Avenue in Broadway East in East Baltimore and hit Harrell while he was riding his scooter home from a therapy appointment.
“He has taken my best friend,” Vernia Harrell said.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Independent Investigations Division is investigating Harrell’s death and released partial video of the crash from Acosta’s body-worn camera and from a Baltimore Police CitiWatch camera at a nearby intersection. Formed in 2021, state law requires the Independent Investigations Division to investigate all incidents in which police officers kill citizens or cause injuries that are likely to result in death. Local state’s attorneys are responsible for determining whether the officers should be charged criminally.
Video footage from Acosta’s body camera shows him passing through at least two intersections with red lights and one with a stop sign at a fairly constant speed before striking Harrell, who was driving through the intersection of East Biddle and North Milton and had a green light.
At the time of the crash, police officials said Acosta had been responding to a fight in the 2800 block of East Preston Street in Berea in East Baltimore, in which a woman was taken to a hospital with lacerations from a sharp weapon and another woman was arrested.
Attorney Alex Binder represents the Harrell family and showed a third video at a news conference Tuesday that revealed the aftermath of the crash. The video, retrieved from a security camera from a bar at the intersection, shows Harrell flying through the air as Acosta’s car speeds through. He stops farther up the road and passersby stare before coming to see if Harrell needs help.
“[Acosta] took no meaningful steps to slow down at all,” Binder said.
Baltimore Police Department policy allows officers to drive through red lights and stop signs “only after slowing down as necessary for safety.”
It’s still not clear how fast Acosta was driving when he crashed into Harrell. It’s also not clear whether Acosta’s actions, despite being an apparent violation of department policy, will warrant criminal charges. The IID investigation could take weeks, if not months, before completion.
Vernia Harrell and Binder, speaking at a news conference, said they want accountability and justice from the police department. Binder said he did not want to speculate about what could happen, but hopes the city will compensate the family.
“If they’re not willing to provide justice in this situation, then we will file a lawsuit and we will go to court on behalf of this grieving family,” Binder said.
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Wiping tears from her eyes and wearing a shirt with her late husband’s photo, Vernia Harrell described her husband as a man who had kind words when you needed them, and tough words when you needed those.
She said her husband was a man who loved to eat and loved to cook. He especially loved banana pudding. In his life, he had worked as a chef and in home improvement. At the time of his death, he was retired and collecting disability, Vernia Harrell said.
“What [Acosta] took was a father, a brother, a cousin, a pop pop, a best friend and a husband,” she said.
Terry Harrell had daughters who needed walking down the aisle at their weddings and friends who he wanted to see more of, she said. In the days since his death, his wife said their grandchildren have asked “Where’s pop pop?”
Vernia Harrell said that before the crash her husband wanted them to take more family pictures. Now she wears a locket with his photo.
“This is all I have left,” she said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.