According to an audiotape of police-radio transmissions released by the Philadelphia Police Department this afternoon, a patrolman in a squad car began following the silver Pontiac driven by the suspect, Donta Cradock, at precisely 7:31:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The incident began after a person who said he witnessed an earlier theft of a motorcycle flagged down the officer, pointed to the Pontiac and said the man driving it was an armed robber.

"Priority . . . person with a gun . . . carjacking, I believe," the unnamed patrolman barked into the radio, barring the radio channel to needless chatter.

Beginning the pursuit south on Roosevelt Blvd., in the inner lanes, near the intersection with Rising Sun Ave., the patrolman followed two car lengths behind the suspect's vehicle, which apparently was moving through thick traffic and stopping for lights. The officer did not activate his siren or blue lights, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore.

In a calm voice, the patrolman asked the radio room if there were other police units in the Olney/Feltonville/Logan area that could assist in the apprehension. Eventually some units joined in.

As the vehicles approached the intersection of 4th St. and Roosevelt Boulevard, the Pontiac swiped some cars on the Boulevard in an effort to get away.

"Multiple accidents up here," the officer reported.

Then, police said, the driver veered south onto 3rd St. at a high rate of speed.

The patrolman following him later told Vanore that the Pontiac was several blocks ahead of him on 3rd St. when he saw it crash.

Witnessses said the car jumped the curb at 3rd and Annsbury in Feltonville and plowed into a woman and three young children.

"We got a lot of injuries down here, get me some rescue," the patrolman said into the radio, concern in his voice.

"Let me know where the injuries are? What are the injuries?" the dispatcher said.

"Get me some rescue. . ."

"Let me know where to send them at, sir. Where are they? . . ."

"Annsbury and 3rd St.," the officer answered quickly. "Get me rescue."

Police say the crash occurred at 7:36:18 p.m.

Two of the children were pronounced dead at the scene, the third child was pronounced dead at the hospital and the mother died this morning.

Contact Inquirer staff writer Michael Matza at 215-854-2541 or mmatza@phillynews.com