Image: Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey
Joseph Kaczmarek  /  AP
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey examines the scene of a deadly crash in North Philadelphia on Wednesday.
updated 6/12/2009 4:54:10 AM ET 2009-06-12T08:54:10

The Philadelphia district attorney's office approved charging two robbery suspects with four counts of murder for a traffic crash that killed a woman and three young children, police say.

The latest charges against 18-year-old Donta Cradock and 20-year-old Ivan Rodriguez were announced Thursday afternoon. The men also are charged with robbery, conspiracy and related offenses. Both await arraignment.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said police were not chasing the car Cradock was driving at the time of Wednesday evening's crash. The car jumped a curb and plowed into the children in front of their home.

Ramsey said the officer would have been justified if he had chased the two suspects but he wasn't able to because he was still stuck at the intersection.

"Did a pursuit take place? The answer is no," Ramsey said during a news conference at police headquarters, pointing to the mug shot of one of the suspects. "The fault belongs to the individual you see here."

Long rap sheets
Both men had bench warrants out for their arrest, but authorities did not immediately know what for; Ramsey said both had extensive criminal records.

The sequence of events started when a witness in an SUV told the officer that he had seen a passenger in a car exit the vehicle and steal a motorcycle at gunpoint around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The officer eventually spotted the car matching the witness's description at a traffic light in the city's Feltonville neighborhood.

The officer pulled up behind the car, turned on his emergency lights and ordered the driver to get out of the car but the driver sped off, Ramsey said.

The officer wasn't able to immediately pursue the driver because his car was still stuck in traffic, Ramsey said; he lost sight of the car before eventually coming upon the accident scene about a mile away.

No skid marks
Cradock lost control and crashed into the crowed in front of a home, Ramsey said. There were no skid marks at the crash scene, indicating that the driver never tried to brake before the crash, Ramsey said.

The car jumped the curb with such force it badly damaged some concrete steps. It became wedged between a house and a pole.

Cradock was injured and arrested at the scene, and a gun was found in the car, police said. He remained hospitalized Thursday but police did not release information on his condition.

"It's horrifying to think about what happened," Mayor Michael Nutter said at the scene. "It's a horrific scene."

Rodriguez was arrested at his nearby home, where several weapons were found, police said. Officers were attacked by a dog at the home and had to shoot it but didn't kill it, said police, who recovered two shotguns, two handguns and a rifle there.

The crash killed Latoya Smith, 22; her daughter, Remedy Smith, who would have turned 1 on Friday; Alliyah Griffin, 6, who was Latoya Smith's niece; and Gina Rosario, 7, a neighbor. The accident happened in front of Smith's home.

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Video: 3 kids die as police chase ends in crash


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