DC police believe driver in SUV rollover crash was high on drugs

Image 1 of 2

The driver of an SUV that overturned in Chinatown on Monday afternoon is suspected of being high on drugs at the time of the crash, and has been charged with second-degree murder, according to documents obtained by FOX 5.

One man died and two other people were hurt after the accident, which happened on the sidewalk at H and 4th Streets NW. Police say the driver was heading down H Street towards 5th Street at a high rate of speed when the SUV rolled across the street and stopped outside of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The police affidavit says the driver, 33-year-old James Chandler, of Silver Spring, Md., was fleeing an accident at 2nd and H Streets when he sideswiped several other vehicles and ran into the back of another vehicle before losing control.

The document also says Chandler was high on a cocktail of drugs at the time of the accident and admitted to police that he had taken Motrin, Percocet, an antibiotic, Adderall along with other prescription drugs earlier in the day. He claimed the drugs were prescribed by a psychiatrist as well as a dentist after undergoing dental surgery. The affidavit also said Chandler admitted that he liked to smoke PCP.

Police say the vehicle ran through a traffic light pole, which hit the building. The vehicle then struck a wall and started rotating. The vehicle flipped on top of a pedestrian, crushing him while also injuring another person in its path.

Police released the name of the man who was killed on Tuesday. They say the victim is 27-year-old Phillip Snodgrass of Baldwin, Md. He was remembered as a man with a sharp legal mind who was juggling a job at the National Federation of Federal Employees with the challenges of earning a higher degree at Georgetown Law School.

"Since last fall, he had been doing the LL.M. program, which is an advance law program at Georgetown, and so he would leave usually between 4 and 5 [p.m.] to go over to his night classes," said Stefan Sutich, a general counsel at the National Federation of Federal Employees. "So he left here at around 4:30 or 4:45 [p.m.] and we laughed about something before he left and the next news I heard was from his family this morning."

Sutich said he and Snodgrass had developed a close working relationship.

"He was someone you could have a very good in-depth conversation with, whether it was about current affairs or a legal issue that we were working on," said Sutich. "But he also had a great sense of humor and we would often joke around and make fun of each other. He had a thick head of hair, so he would of course make fun of me that I did not have hair on my head."

Sutich said his co-worker was in great spirits when he left work on Monday and was still talking about the terrific time he had with friends on a recent trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans -- joking that he wanted to live and work from there.

But police say just before 5 p.m., the man behind the wheel of the Nissan Xterra was traveling at a high rate of speed as he approached the intersection of 4th and H Streets.

"It actually sheared the light pole, hit the light pole into the building … and it traveled through the light pole and struck the marble wall and started to rotate," said D.C. Police Lt. Ron Wilkins. "It appeared to be flipping end over end."

A second person was also struck by the car, but survived.

Police say video cameras mounted on buildings near the intersection recorded some of, if not all, of the tragedy.

Chandler was taken to a hospital for treatment and released. On Tuesday, he was ordered held without bond.

Chandler does have a long record of traffic charges in Maryland, including one recently for driving over 100 miles per hour and he was taken into custody on a DWI charge.