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Police Employee Suspended After Tow Truck Hits 17 Cars

October 18, 1988

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A police department driver was jailed awaiting arraignment Tuesday on charges he went on a 60 mph rampage with his tow truck, ramming 17 cars, pushing them into rowhouses and injuring at least five people. Elbert Hatten, 36, a six-year civilian employee, was suspended from the department with intent to dismiss after the Monday night incident, said police spokeswoman Cpl. Theresa Young.

Hatten was charged with being an intoxicated chauffeur, four counts of reckless endangerment and three counts of simple assault, Ms. Young said. Hatten was on duty but had no assignments in the area, and police had no motive, she said.

″I’m not giving out any information,″ a woman who answered the phone at Hatten’s house said Tuesday before hanging up.

A number of residents tried to stop the truck before a man turned off the ignition, police and witnesses said.

The truck was moving about 60 mph when it started hitting vehicles and pushing them into the front porches of two-story rowhouses in north Philadelphia, said Angel Echevarria, 17.

″It was ridiculous,″ said witness Carmen Rivera. ″He was a humongous man and he kept trying to drive away. And when he couldn’t drive anymore, he tried to fight his way out. He was hitting all these people - it was not even funny.″

Ms. Rivera said the driver sideswiped two cars by a tire shop, backed up, then drove hard up the street, hitting a van and pushing it into a porch.

As neighbors began to crowd around, the driver again backed up and gunned the engine, scraped more cars, backed up again and finally stopped when it hit another car.

″He had no bumper and the motor went out, so then he wanted to get out of the truck and leave,″ Ms. Rivera said. ″He kept punching people. He broke a guy’s lip. So then the people started getting mad and hitting him.″

It was the second time in five weeks that a driver crashed into multiple vehicles on Philadelphia streets.

On Sept. 13, a mystery driver hit more than 30 cars on seven blocks in the city’s Holmesburg section and escaped on foot.

No arrests have been made in that case, which is still under investigation, Cpl. Glenn Carp said Tuesday.

Ms. Young said the two cases are not believed to be related.

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