Suspects in deadly crash in police custody
by RACHEL DAVIS
Oct 03, 2012 | 7798 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Three people were killed in a wreck on Birmingport Road Monday night after a police chase stemming from a robbery in Cordova. Birmingham Police Sgt. Matthew Nicosia said a man, woman and child were killed. - Photo courtesy of al.com
Three people were killed in a wreck on Birmingport Road Monday night after a police chase stemming from a robbery in Cordova. Birmingham Police Sgt. Matthew Nicosia said a man, woman and child were killed. - Photo courtesy of al.com
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Birmingham authorities have two men in custody believed to be involved with an incident Monday night that began with an armed robbery in Cordova and ended with an accident that killed three people in Jefferson County.

A third man, not involved in Monday’s incident, was also arrested for not cooperating with police.

Two suspects were arrested in Ensley Tuesday evening. Birmingham police have identified them as LaJuan Dontell McNeal and Jeffrey Howe. Howe is believed to have been involved in Monday’s events. McNeal was taken in for questioning and may be charged for refusing police entry into the home in Ensley where the two were found.

Earlier Tuesday, 20-year-old Dominique Rashad Smith of Mulga surrendered to police. He was taken to a Birmingham hospital to be treated for injuries he sustained in Monday’s accident.

Both suspects are reportedly from the Birmingham area.

Monday’s events began when Cordova police responded to a call that an elderly couple had been robbed at gunpoint and that one person had been struck with a gun on Long Avenue in the Benchfield community in Cordova.

A wallet was stolen from the 77-year-old man who was struck in the head with a gun. Cordova police broadcast a description of the vehicle used in the robbery and assault, and Dora police located the vehicle on Horse Creek Boulevard, according to Dora Police Chief John Duchock.

Officers from Dora ran the license plate of the car, which came up to a rental agency, so they attempted a traffic stop. Duchock said the car sped up and refused to pull over, continuing onto U.S. 78 toward Birmingham.

As the pursuit approached the county line, Dora officers called ahead to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office to alert them to the situation. Dora continued to pursue the suspects through McDonald’s Chapel, but Duchock said officers eventually gave up the chase out of concern for public safety.

“They followed our policy,” Duchock said. He added that the department’s policy prohibits pursuit except when the suspect is indicated in a felony case, which this is.

Duchock said that when he arrived on the scene, his officers were backtracking and looking for clues and evidence. Approximately 30 minutes later, the officers received a call that their suspects had been involved in a collision with another vehicle.

When Dora officers arrived at the intersection of Birmingport Road (Highway 269) and Minor Parkway in Birmingham, three people in the other vehicle were dead and the two suspects had fled on foot. Dora police assisted with the search Monday night.

Although no law enforcement agencies were actively chasing the suspects at the time of the wreck, other reports indicate that a patrolling Jefferson County deputy spotted the vehicle and was turning around to attempt a stop. The deputy apparently lost control of his vehicle and ran into a ditch, suffering minor injuries.

Duchock said he believed the suspects saw the deputy turn around and accelerated through the red light, striking the other vehicle.

“Nobody was chasing them at that point,” Duchock said. “We ended our pursuit, and they had more than 30 minutes to cool off before this happened.”

According to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office, the victims in the second car were Amber Nicole Verus, 23, Ryan Max Culwell, 20, and their 10-month-old daughter, Rogue Marie Culwell, all of Hanceville.

The robbery and assault victim from Cordova was treated and released from Walker Baptist Medical Center Monday night.

Cordova police will conduct the investigation into the robbery and assault and Birmingham police are handling the investigation into the three deaths. One gun was recovered from the suspects’ car, although it was not known if it was one of the guns used in the robbery.

“It is a tragic event,” Cordova Police Chief Kenneth Bobo said. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims in this senseless tragedy.”