Repeat drunk driver suspected in fatal Burlington crash
Burlington, Vermont - December 27, 2010
A crash in downtown Burlington following a police chase has left a Queen City woman dead. The suspect is a repeat drunk driver. Timothy Dowd, 52, of Hinesburg, has been convicted four previous times of drunk driving. Twice in New York, once in Pennsylvania and most recently in 1998 in Vermont. But he has a legal Vermont license.
It started on Elmwood Avenue Sunday night when police tried to pull over Dowd for several alleged driving violations.
"He was essentially driving without regard to traffic control devices," Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling said. "The officer witnessed him go through at least two stop signs without indication of slowing or stopping."
But police say before the officer could identify Dowd or even walk up to his car, Dowd sped away and started a chase that lasted just 3 minutes. Police followed him as he raced down several downtown streets-- even driving the wrong way down a one-way road. They say he went through eight red lights and two stop signs before crashing into a car with Kathryn Borneman, 43, of Burlington, inside.
The victim was driving north bound up St. Paul St., when Dowd told police he was driving 60 mph up Main St. when he tried to avoid the car but couldn't.
"The impact was direct," Schirling said. "T-bone accident-- the car was broadsided pretty much directly into the driver's door. It appears the victim died directly on impact."
Dowd was arrested for gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle and for attempting to elude a police officer. Burlington Police say that the chase complied with their pursuit policies.
"Providing community safety by stopping violators-- whether it be for traffic violations or other things-- balanced by the risk of actually pursuing the vehicle is a very delicate and difficult balancing act that frankly no one has mastered," Schirling said.
Police say during a pursuit they take into account road and traffic conditions along with other factors, which is why they say they slowed down on south Main Street and were more than 100 yards away when Dowd crashed.
"Everybody drives and everybody walks on our city streets and because of that we need to prosecute Mr. Dowd to the fullest extent and send a message to the rest of the community that we're not going to tolerate this type of criminal behavior," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.
Dowd's blood alcohol level 4 hours after the crash was .071%. He told officers he fled the scene because he was driving someone else's vehicle, he was only wearing pajamas and he was afraid of another DUI arrest. Even with four DUI convictions in his past, Dowd's license to drive in Vermont was valid.
"Any fines or suspension periods-- he had served those in other states, hence was eligible to be licensed in those other states, which reciprocates to be eligible to be licensed in Vermont," said Glen Button, the director of enforcement at the Vt. Department of Motor Vehicles.
Dowd also told police he was hoping to elude them-- stop the car and run away. Since he hadn't been identified yet and the car he was driving wasn't registered, he thought he'd be able to get away. He pled not guilty in court Monday and he's being held without bail.
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