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Speed, reason still a mystery after wild Harrisburg crash - abc27 WHTM

Speed, reason still a mystery after wild Harrisburg crash

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

"Why?" and "How fast?" – two big questions investigators hope to answer quickly following this weekend's violent crash in Harrisburg.

Buried in the wreckage from Saturday's wild crash on Sixth Street is the police-issued black box found in department units, a key that could unlock several mysteries.

Because the crash involved a Harrisburg police officer, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico is taking the lead on the investigation. Currently, detectives are combing through information that may be provided from the vehicle's black box.

Marsico said his team must find out why police were after 32-year-old Christopher Slaughter. He said early reports point to a traffic stop somewhere in the city.

"That's what we believe set in motion this chain of events," said Marsico. "We're in the process of getting the dispatch tapes, things like that. To figure out what exactly happened."

Marsico did confirm police found a "hefty amount" of cocaine in Slaughter's vehicle after he was arrested Saturday evening. Authorities said the suspect suffered minor injuries and is in Dauphin County Prison.

So far, Slaughter has been charged with escape. Pending the investigation, Marsico believes other charges will follow. Slaughter was on parole at the time of incident. Investigators were unsure and court documents were unavailable to determine why Slaughter spent time in state prison.

Also a mystery – speed.

Marsico and Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson were cautious to describe officer's actions as a police pursuit. During an unrelated press conference Monday, Thompson even described the incident as "alleged" pursuit.

"The City of Harrisburg has a no-pursuit policy," said Thompson. "A no high-speed pursuit policy."

The mayor did say her thoughts and prayers are with Harrisburg Officer Daniel Peiper. At last check, authorities said he was listed in "critical condition" at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Thompson also said her thoughts are with Selina Martin, who is listed in "critical condition" by a hospital spokesperson at last check Monday evening. Martin was an innocent bystander who was pinned underneath Peiper's flipped SUV. Martin's fiancé, Barry Haywood, spoke with abc27 on Sunday and said Martin suffered a crushed heart, lungs, and pelvis. Haywood said Martin was sitting on her front stoop when the SUV landed on her.

Due to the severity of the crash and the injuries involved, determining rate of speed is an important factor for investigators.

"Certainly, we would investigate if any police officer was involved in any criminal activity in the course of a chase," said Marsico. "But, certainly does not appear to be the point here."

Thompson added city officers are trained to use judgment.

"So it's a delicate balance here," she said. "And our guys are trained to use that delicate balance, and our guys are trained when to pursue and when not to pursue."

Thompson urged people to hold judgment until all the facts come out. Thompson said one thing is for sure: officers' actions have one purpose.

"They get up every morning with the sense of responsibility to protect and serve, and that's precisely what our officers do," said Thompson.

On Monday morning, Peiper's Police K-9, Thor, was released from the Rossmoyne Animal Trauma Center in the care of another K-9 officer according to veterinarian Sabrena Meyerhoff. As with Zeke last month, the animal hospital will cover vet costs.

In light of recent events involving Harrisburg K-9s, Sam's Club employees will hold a "Burger Burn" on Saturday May 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to raise money for Harrisburg K-9s.

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