Driver `Sorry' After Running Down Firefighter In Plymouth

Posted: June 16, 1998

A Norristown man fleeing the police barreled through an accident scene yesterday afternoon, mowing down a volunteer firefighter and dragging him more than 20 yards as he screamed for his life, police said.

Two police officers fired eight to 10 shots to get the man to stop, authorities said. The driver, who allegedly tried to run over two Norristown Borough police officers earlier in the day, was nabbed after his Ford Explorer came to a halt near the accident scene at Belvoir and Sandy Hill roads in Plymouth Township, Montgomery County.

The firefighter, William Krause, 22, of Harmonville Fire Co., was conscious following the crash. He suffered broken bones, but his injuries were not life threatening, said Plymouth Township Police Detective Sgt. John Myrsiades.

The suspect, Luther Harling, 30, appeared disoriented, but was unhurt, police said. He was jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail on charges of attempted homicide, assault and other offenses.

As he was led off to prison last night, he told reporters he was ``very sorry.''

``I hope he feels better,'' Harling said of the hurt firefighter.

Cops said the crime had the look of a cold-blooded act.

``He was looking to kill someone or looking to get killed,'' said Myrsiades, who saw the vehicle spin out of control.

``It was just unbelievable - he hit the firefighter head-on.''

A woman who identified herself as Harling's sister last night denounced the media. Other relatives blamed Harling's behavior on beer, a brain tumor and diabetes.

``There's enough publicity over this,'' the sister shouted angrily. ``My brother has mental problems. It's not something that was done on purpose.''

Myrsiades said the incident occurred as several police officers and firefighters were clearing the scene of a five-car crash at the intersection shortly before 1 p.m.

The pile-up occurred when a northbound vehicle ran a red light on Belvoir Road and smashed into a second vehicle, which flipped onto a third vehicle, police said. Two other cars were also involved, police said.

One driver was flown by helicopter to a hospital and was in critical condition last night, police said. The names of the victims were not released.

About 30 minutes later, as authorities were clearing the intersection, they saw a blue Ford Explorer speeding west on Sandy Hill Road, the driver wildly blowing his horn, witnesses said.

``At first I thought maybe it was a parent or maybe another police officer, but then he headed directly toward us,'' said Harmonville Fire Chief Jack Phipps.

The Explorer screeched to a halt in front of the accident area, which was cordoned off, police said.

Then the driver suddenly backed up, drove through a lawn and went full speed ahead - directly toward police and firefighters, authorities said.

As officers shouted for the driver to stop, and police and firefighters dove for safety, the vehicle hit Krauss, Myrsiades said.

Police opened fire on the vehicle, firing about 10 shots into it as it dragged Krause, who was pinned in the vehicle's undercarriage, officials said.

Harling abandoned his vehicle and rushed at several police officers before he was subdued, police said.

Norristown police said Harling had hours before driven into the borough police parking lot and attempted to run down two police officers.

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