Falls Church Deputy Sheriff Michael F. Wood is being hailed as a hero for his heroic vehicle maneuver to tame a robbery and carjacking suspect driving wildly and endangering lives on W. Broad Street last Thursday afternoon. Moments earlier, the suspect had assaulted two Fairfax County police officers.
Deputy Wood used his Sheriff Department’s van to force a collision with the driver of a stolen SUV who sped up westbound up Broad Street from Cherry Street to elude Fairfax Police and then reversed direction at West Street to drive wildly, including twice onto the sidewalk, coming back east. This all happened about 5 p.m. on Sept. 7.
When Deputy Wood, who had joined the pursuit of the vehicle, saw it was careening toward some pedestrians, he pulled his van directly into its path, causing a loud collision at the intersection of W. Broad and Virginia Avenue.
Neither Deputy Wood nor the driver was hurt by the collision, although the driver had been shot earlier by a Fairfax County police officer when he was first found wrestling a driver out of his SUV and commandeering it away from an attempted robbery scene on Arlington Blvd. near Cherry Street. The gunshot wound was not serious and came after the suspect physically resisted one Fairfax officer and tried to strike another with the carjacked vehicle.
Falls Church Sheriff Stephen Bittle said of his deputy, “He performed outstandingly well. I am very proud of him.” He said Wood was alerting scanning the police radio when he picked up on the chase. Fairfax Police were pursuing the suspect in the SUV up Cherry Street, where the suspect turned left on E. Broad.
After the collision, the suspect, identified as Marion I. McDougal, 24, of no fixed address in Washington, D.C., was pulled from his vehicle by Falls Church Police Officer Bunker and taken to Fairfax Inova Hospital to treat his wound. Officer Richardson, Private First Class Freed and Corporal Carr from the Falls Church department also assisted in the apprehension.
Rush hour traffic on Broad Street was diverted away from the scene for blocks on either side for almost two hours.
Falls Church Commissioner of the Revenue Tom Clinton reported to the News-Press that he’d witnessed the chase, including one instance of the suspect driving onto the sidewalk in front of the Starbucks in the 300 block of W. Broad.
Clinton said he received an e-mail from a friend on the Fairfax Police tactical unit praising the performance of Falls Church City police and sheriff’s units. “They all send their appreciation to all Falls Church units involved in catching the offender who attempted to kill two of their officers,” Clinton said.
The incident began when the suspect climbed out of his car and approached the Arlington Nail Boutique on an Arlington Boulevard (Rt. 50) service road. An employee of the boutique, seeing the very large man approach, locked the front door. But the man broke in and began to rob the customers inside.
The man then decide to leave and as he walked away, two Fairfax police officers were tending to a traffic stop on the other side of Rt. 50, one already having checked out the suspect’s car, which was left running.
The man therefore avoided his car, and instead went to an occupied Toyota Highlander. He yanked the driver, a 55-year-old Falls Church man, from the seat.
Witnesses then started yelling to the officers, who dashed across the busy Rt. 50 to try to subdue the suspect. But one officer, an eight-year veteran of the department, was unable to pull the suspect from the car and was thrown to the ground.
The suspect then began speeding away and when the second officer, a 24-year-old trainee only one week out of the police academy, tried to step in front of the vehicle to stop it, he was also knocked to the ground.
That’s when the suspect commandeered the carjacked SUV up Cherry Street and onto E. Broad.