Man held for murder trial for fatal police chase

Posted: May 31, 2012

A North Philadelphia motorist, who parlayed a ticket for running a stop sign into a vehicular-homicide charge after leading police on a 20-minute chase at speeds over 100 m.p.h., was ordered Wednesday to stand trial for murder.

Gregory Alston, 39, was ordered held for court on third-degree murder, homicide by vehicle, and a host of assault and driving-while-intoxicated counts after a preliminary hearing before Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter. The charges resulted from the March 30 crash at 10th and Ontario Streets that killed a man and critically injured the man’s girlfriend and her young son.

According to Police Officer James Boone, the chain of events began at 9:50 p.m.

He and his partner watched a silver Volkswagen sedan, heading west on Pike Street, run a stop sign at Park Avenue, one block east of Broad Street. Boone testified that he followed the VW north on Broad, turned on his flashing lights, and followed the car until it pulled over at Bristol Street.

Boone said that when he asked to see the driver’s license, Alston replied: "No, but I have this for you."

Alston then reached across his chest, Boone said, and the officer saw a black-and-chrome gun pointed at him.

Boone said he yelled "gun," and the driver sped away north on Broad. The officer then described a chase, later joined by other patrol cars, through Hunting Park and onto Roosevelt Boulevard southbound. At one point, Boone continued, the VW’s driver tossed a bag out the window on the expressway and it exploded in a puff of white powder.

The VW driver got off the Boulevard at Kelly Drive and then turned around and reentered the expressway on the northbound side, heading back to North Philadelphia, Boone said. After the officers tracked the car through Olney, it wound up heading east on Ontario until it ran through the stop sign at 10th, where Ontario becomes one-way westbound.

Officer Michael Levin, under questioning from Assistant District Attorney John Doyle, testified that he intercepted the speeding VW and saw it crash into a gold Honda Accord heading south on 10th. Levin, who also identified Alston as the driver, said he saw him flee the crash.

Doyle said the front-seat passenger of the Honda, Danny Irizzary Roman, 36, was dead at the scene. The Honda’s driver, Jenny Santiago, 25, was critically injured and now uses a walker. Her 4-year-old son, Jaden, sustained a skull fracture but was released from the hospital after 48 hours and has recovered, Doyle said.

Defense attorney Joseph C. Santaguida questioned Boone about why a police search never turned up the alleged gun and drugs, and moved, unsuccessfully, for Shuter to dismiss the weapons counts.

Doyle said a blood test performed on Alston at the hospital showed that he had enough cocaine in his system that he could not possibly have driven unimpaired.

Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or follow him on Twitter @JoeSlobo.

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