Parents suing after high-speed police chase
Teen crashed dirt bike into tree one year ago, remains in ‘vegetative state’
A Waldorf couple plans to sue the Charles County Sheriff’s Office and the state of Maryland after a high-speed police chase one year ago left their teenage son on the brink of death and permanently disabled.
Rodney Octavious Wood Jr., then 16, was riding his dirt bike west on Billingsley Road about 12:45 a.m. Aug. 8, 2013, when he passed a Charles County sheriff’s officer driving east on the road, according to a letter from Greenbelt attorney Tim Maloney, who is representing Wood’s parents.
Believing the dirt bike had improper lighting, the officer turned around, turned on his emergency equipment and began pursuing Wood, the letter states.
When Wood did not pull over, the officer continued the pursuit at speeds exceeding 70 miles per hour, despite orders from a supervising officer that the chase end, Maloney’s letter states.
Wood turned off of Billingsley onto Highgrove Drive but lost control of his bike and slammed into a tree at Bishop’s Gate Lane.
Found unresponsive and with severe injuries, including traumatic brain injury, Wood “literally died on the scene, and they revived him,” said his mother, Monica Wood. He was flown via helicopter to Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, where after several hours trauma doctors determined that Wood required more specialized care than the hospital could provide.
Wood was then flown to University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, where he remained for 20 days while undergoing numerous surgeries. He was then transferred to the Kennedy Kreiger Institute for another three and half months.
Now 17 and back at home with his parents, Wood was in a coma for 32 days and remains in a vegetative state, Monica Wood said.
“Totally dependent” on his family for care, her son “can’t do anything for himself,” Monica Wood said.
“He does open his eyes, but he can’t do anything. He can’t communicate. It’s really bad,” she said. “He’s considered in a vegetative state. The doctors don’t think he’s going to come out of it. They think he’s going to stay that way because of his injuries.”
The Woods contend that the officer’s high-speed pursuit of their son was unwarranted and that the “delay in prompt and competent medical treatment ... exacerbated Mr. Wood’s existing injuries and caused additional loss of cognitive functioning,” according to Maloney’s letter.
The letter lists Wood’s estimated past and future medical and care expenses at $25 million.
The dashboard video from the officer’s police cruiser at the time of the chase revealed that Wood’s helmet flew off, at which point the pursuit was called off, Monica Wood said. She wonders to this day why, if her son had done something wrong, the officer could not have just safely followed him home.
“He was on the bike. He shouldn’t have been on the road. He could have just followed him home,” she said. “A lot of times people ask me, ‘why didn’t your son stop?’, and I would think he was scared. I can’t read his mind, and he can’t talk, and he can’t tell me.”
Monica Wood said she and her husband Rodney Wood also are hoping to petition for a no-chase law in their son’s name “because nobody should ever have to go through what we went through.”
Monica Wood said her son had a 4.0 grade point average and was ready to attend North Point High School, excited about the various academic programs the school offers.
Rodney Wood Jr. also has a 1-year-old daughter who frequently visits, his mother said. The girl will get in her father’s bed, say his name and hug him. Sometimes the family will drape the boy’s arms around his daughter, as if he’s hugging her back.
“It’s just a sad sight to see,” Monica Wood said.