Car plows into D.C. street festival
WASHINGTON – A car plowed through several blocks at a crowded street festival, injuring about 35 people, seven severely, authorities said. The driver was arrested near the scene.Witnesses said strollers were flung into the air and one person was trapped beneath the car’s wheels during the chaos Saturday night in the city’s Anacostia neighborhood.The injured included two children under age 3 and two police officers who drove their motor scooters into the driver’s path in an attempt to stop her, authorities said.Police identified the driver as Tonya Bell, 30, of Oxon Hill, Md., who was charged with aggravated assault while armed. District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said additional charges are pending.Police said Bell had a 7-year-old child in the car with her.They were conducting blood tests that would show whether alcohol or drugs were involved.”We’re still trying to piece together exactly just what happened that led up to this,” Lanier said at the scene.She said a vehicle believed to be Bell’s was driving erratically and struck a police car and fled the scene about a half-hour before the crash at the festival, which occurred at about 8 p.m.Alan Etter, a spokesman for the District of Columbia fire department, said authorities believe Bell was going about 70 mph when she tore through the festival. Litter and debris from food stands were scattered in the street.Witnesses described an extended period of mayhem in which the driver started off slowly through some closed streets and finally hit the accelerator on the avenue running through the heart of Unifest, an annual event sponsored by a church. The car hit a stage where people were dancing, witnesses said. It was not clear what finally caused it to stop.Ryland Anderson, 19, and Philemon Walker, 24, told The Washington Post they were about to cross the street as the festival was winding down when the car sped past. They described strollers being flung into the air and said they saw the body of a man apparently lodged in the station wagon’s wheel well.”She was driving like ‘if you’re in my way, you’re going to get hit,”‘ Walker said.David White, president of the Chicago Shannon Civic Association, said Bell grew up in the neighborhood and is well known. White said he and other residents saw her in the area on Saturday morning, driving erratically and clipping parked cars. He said he confronted her, but she acted like she didn’t know him.”I said, ‘Tonya, what are you doing?’ She was sweating like a race horse. We tried our best to stop her. … She was just in a deranged state of mind,” White said.
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