Cop: Dirt-biker who left girl, 6, for dead, was once charged with attempted murder
The girl continues to fight for her life while her aunt is recovering in guarded condition.
An unlicensed dirt bike rider who hit a 6-year-old girl and her aunt on 69th Street in Upper Darby on Saturday and then fled has a lengthy record of criminal charges including attempted murder, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said Sunday.
Caliph Douglass, 32, of South Philadelphia, who suffered a collapsed lung and a spinal injury during the chaotic episode, was arraigned Sunday morning in his hospital bed at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, Chitwood said. He faces charges of aggravated assault, robbery, fleeing police, driving under a suspended license, and related offenses. His bail was set at $1 million.
The girl hit by the dirt bike was listed in critical condition Sunday at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her 44-year-old aunt, who had been crossing the street with her and initially was reported to be her grandmother, was listed in guarded condition at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chitwood said.
The episode began Saturday afternoon when Philadelphia Police were searching for dirt bikes and ATVs — which are illegal on city streets — when they tried to pull over Douglass, who allegedly fled and led them on a pursuit into Upper Darby.
Around 1:30 p.m. on the township's 69th Street, busy with Easter shoppers and families attending a children's show at the Tower Theater, Douglass sped down the street along the yellow line dividing the north and south lanes, Chitwood said.
The woman and her niece, who were shopping on 69th Street, were walking at the crosswalk when the dirt bike struck them, Chitwood said. "He hits the little girl first at full speed, then the aunt. Both fly up in the air, land on the highway, and are knocked unconscious."
The dirt bike crashed and Douglass ran toward Ludlow Street, pulled a driver from a 2002 Nissan, and stole the vehicle, Chitwood said.
Police found the stolen car a short time later parked on the 6400 block of Market Street next to a wooded area. Douglass had parked the car and fled into a homeless encampment, where he began asking people who lived there if he could use a cellphone to call for someone to pick him up, Chitwood said.
When police found Douglass — who was bleeding from his face and covered in bruises — he was with a homeless man who was trying to help him walk and did not know how Douglass had been injured, Chitwood said.
Douglass was taken into custody and initially taken to Delaware County Memorial Hospital, where he asked a nurse if the little girl he hit had died, Chitwood said.
People in the large crowd at 69th Street took pictures of Douglass — who was wearing a red hoodie when the dirt bike crashed — and many of them have shared their photos with police, Chitwood said.
"It was like a fishbowl," he said. "We have pictures of him running, pictures of him on the bike, pictures of him in the hoodie. Numerous people took photos."
In 2007, Douglass was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and firearms violations in Philadelphia, but the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution, according to court records. He has been found guilty of numerous drug offenses and of driving under the influence of intoxicants, court records show. Douglass is currently on probation for possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, according to court documents.
According to his Facebook page, Douglass attended Glen Mills Schools, the school in Delaware County for court-adjudicated youths..
Douglass is also a father, having proudly posted photos with his baby son to his Facebook page last year.
Meanwhile, as a result of the crash, Philadelphia police are facing questions about their pursuit policy.
The department's directive on vehicle pursuits states that they should be conducted only when a chase might prevent death or serious injury or the escape of a person believed to have committed a forcible felony, such as murder, or believed to have a deadly weapon other than a vehicle.
The directive also states that officers "may not pursue outside of the boundaries of Philadelphia" unless given permission to do so by a higher-ranking supervisor.
"Continuously evaluate the benefits of an immediate capture against the safety of the public, other officers and the suspect," the directive reads. "An officer can self-terminate a pursuit at any time."
A Philadelphia police spokesman said nobody was available Sunday to comment on whether the department's policies were followed during Saturday's pursuit.