WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Capitol Police officer was indicted on federal civil rights charges after he was involved in an unauthorized high-speed chase, crashed into a motorcycle and then tried to cover it up, prosecutors said Friday.
The officer, Thomas Smith, was supposed to be checking on the homes of members of Congress in Georgetown around 11:30 p.m. on June 20, 2020, when he started pursuing two motorcycles. Prosecutors say Smith “followed closely behind these vehicles at a high rate of speed” before he swerved his marked patrol car into one of the motorcycles, sending the driver flying into the air.
U.S. Capitol Police policy prohibits officers from pursuits outside of the grounds of the Capitol without permission from a supervisor. Smith did not seek any approval and did not alert dispatchers that he was involved in a chase, prosecutors say.
Authorities allege Smith drove around the man, leaving the victim lying in the roadway, and fled from the scene. Prosecutors say Smith “knowingly drove away from the scene of the crash without rendering aid, alerting medical authorities, and taking any other reasonable steps to obtain help for the victim.”
He then drove back to a Capitol Police parking garage, parked the damaged police sedan, falsified a report to say he had started his shift later and then went inside and got keys for another vehicle, prosecutors said.
The Metropolitan Police Department later contacted Capitol Police about the crash. Smith is accused of later lying to a Capitol Police sergeant and claiming to have no knowledge of the crash, according to prosecutors. He told the supervisor that he had “been assigned to and had been driving the USCP SUV throughout his entire shift,” an indictment against him says.
Smith, 44, was charged with violating the victim’s civil rights and obstructing justice. He is expected to be arraigned in federal court in the next week, prosecutors said. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
Capitol Police officials said Smith was suspended immediately after the crash. Officials said he remained suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal case and an internal investigation.
“The public’s trust is critical for any law enforcement agency and integrity is the most important quality for any law enforcement officer,” Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said.