Bleeding and disoriented after being thrown from a car in a crash, 17-year-old Darius Moore managed to climb a steep embankment in the darkness and walk a quarter-mile to find help.
When police arrived, Moore says, he asked them to look for his buddies who had been in the back seat.
“He says he had two other guys with him,” an unidentified Gary officer said over the radio. “They might still be in the car. You might want to check.”
But police did not find Brandon Smith and Dominique Green, both 18. Instead, Smith’s father discovered them dead in the weeds after the sun came up, more than six hours after the 1:30 a.m. crash on Sept. 15. He said the bodies were 15 to 20 feet from the wreck.
According to the coroner, the young men died instantly, meaning it would have made no difference if police had found them that night.
But two weeks later, Arthur Smith is asking why police didn’t do more to look for his son and the other teenager when authorities knew they might be critically injured.
“The point is, you had ample enough opportunity to do your job. If it was a bum pushing a grocery cart down here and flipped his way down there, he’d deserve the same respect,” said Smith, who has called for the officers to be fired.
Gary police would not say exactly what efforts they made to find the two young men. Cmdr. Sam Roberts said the circumstances were still being investigated. If the officers are found to have acted improperly, they could be reprimanded, he said.
Teens had been drinking alcohol
Police have said Moore and his front-seat passenger, 17-year-old DeAndre Anderson, who also survived the wreck, had blood-alcohol concentrations of 0.05 and 0.09 percent. They have not said which teen had which level. Indiana’s legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent, and both men are under the drinking age of 21.
Roberts said police expect to submit their report next week to the prosecutor’s office, which will decide whether to file charges.
The four high school students were returning home after a hip-hop show. Moore was driving on a bridge over Interstate 80/94 when the car veered over a concrete median, hopped the sidewalk, went through a handrail and hurtled into a wooded area. An officer estimated the car flipped 15 times.
Arthur Smith said he didn’t know anything was wrong until Anderson’s mother knocked on his door hours after the crash to say the teenagers were missing. Smith went to the hospital, then the police department. He said he drove to the accident site just to see what happened, not really looking for his son.
Father describes shocking site
Smith said he was walking in the weeds when he spotted his son’s body lying face up over a fallen tree, then saw Green’s body. He said he cannot understand how police missed them, especially because his son was 6-foot-3.
Smith’s brother, Darren Smith, who has been with the Gary fire department for more than 20 years, also was at the accident site that morning. He said he is unsure why the department was not called in to help search.
“We have floodlights that will light up a seven-block radius,” he said.
Official cites conflicting information
A spokeswoman for Mayor Rudy Clay said Thursday he had no comment. Days after the crash, the mayor questioned whether officers had responded properly, saying he would have called the fire department to help.
The same day, Police Chief Thomas Houston defended his officers, saying they had received conflicting information regarding whether anyone had been left behind at the accident scene.
The dispatch tapes indicate officers did know, but Roberts said they reveal only part of the picture. The tapes do not include other conversations police had with the teens and with each other.
Survivor's mother defends son
Moore’s mother, Carmelita Evans, said her son, who is recovering from his injuries, and Anderson did not give conflicting statements.
She suggested police were trying take the focus off themselves and put it on the teenagers by releasing information that they had been drinking. She said a tire blowout caused the accident.
Police have said the cause is still under investigation.
“They were typical teenagers,” Evans said. “Every one of us has been teenagers in our lives and we probably have done one thing or another. These teenagers didn’t have no criminal record. They were good in school.”
Smith said police should not hide behind the coroner’s finding that his son died instantly.
“I pray to God he did,” Smith said. “For me to think he laid down there six hours and suffered. No, that’s inconceivable.”