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Police pursuit in Charles County under investigation after attempted traffic stop results in fatality

The Charles County Sheriff's Office says the driver sped off from the officer before he lost control and crashed on St. Charles Parkway. A passenger died.

CHARLES COUNTY, Md. — A D.C. woman died in a crash in Waldorf Thursday night. The woman was the passenger in a vehicle that was being pursued by police at the time of the crash, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Independent Investigations Division (IID) of the Maryland Attorney General's Office announced they are investigating the this incident and they identified the deceased woman as 52-year-old Inga Person.

The Charles County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) identified the driver of the vehicle as Joseph Penn, 41, of Suitland, Md. Investigators learned after the crash there is a warrant open for Penn through the Charles County Circuit Court "for failure to appear on a felony theft case and an active civil warrant."

According to a statement from the IID, a member with the CCSO— identified as Officer Chad Irwin, a two and a half year veteran of the force—initiated a traffic stop around 8 p.m. Thursday in the area of St. Charles Parkway near St. Ignatius Drive.

According to a statement from CCSO, the driver of a Toyota Camry—whom police identified as Penn—pulled into a nearby parking lot but failed to stop. Penn accelerated through the parking lot of a business and at one point abruptly stopped and put his car in reverse, accelerating backward toward the officer’s car. 

Penn then drove forward at a very high speed on St. Charles Parkway, authorities said. Irwin tried following Penn but reportedly lost sight of the Camry when it "darted in front of another vehicle near a curve in the road."

As he was driving, Irwin noticed debris on the roadway and realized the Camry he was pursuing had crashed. Police say Penn ran from the car following the crash and a female passenger—identified as Person—was located on the ground near the car with life-threatening injuries. 

First responders and medical personnel attempted to perform life-saving measures on Person, including CPR, but she was pronounced dead.

Per state law, the Office of the Attorney General's IID and the Maryland State Police was called to the scene to lead an investigation.

Several officers conducted a search for the driver of the Camry with the use of K-9 and helicopter. After several minutes, officers located Penn in a nearby neighborhood and he was taken into custody. He suffered minor injuries from the crash and was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Irwin's police dashboard camera and microphone were activated during the incident, investigators said.

The IID will generally release body camera footage or dashboard camera footage within 14 days of an incident. 

According to CCSO, "narcotics might have been a contributing factor in the crash." Authorities are reviewing possible criminal charges for Penn in consultation with the Charles County State's Attorney's Office.

Investigators are trying to identify the occupants of two vehicles that were in the area who may have witnessed the crash and are asking anyone with additional information about this incident to call the Office of the Attorney General’s IID at 410-576-7070. 

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