MTA Light Rail Operator Sentenced to 18 Months for Crash that Took the Life of Saint Frances Football Player in February 2022

Annapolis, Maryland – An MTA Light Rail Operator was sentenced Friday to 18 months for a fatal crash that took the life of highly-touted football prospect Lamar Patterson as he drove to high school in February 2022, State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess announced.

Tavon D. Smith, 44, was sentenced to 18 months, with the first two months to be served at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center and the remaining time on house arrest.

"It is MTA protocol that Light Rail operators must stop and dwell at each station for 30 seconds before proceeding," Leitess said. "It was determined the Defendant waited just a few seconds upon stopping at the previous station, so the safety gates didn't deploy in time to warn Lamar Patterson as he drove through the railway crossing at Maple Road in Linthicum. The Defendant also didn't heed the flashing cross warning indicator lights that notified him that the gates weren't down yet, and this combination led to the collision with Lamar's Honda. Had the Defendant followed the rules, this tragic death could have been prevented. The loss of a young man with a bright future is a tragedy for his family and his school community.

"This prosecution and the investigation by Anne Arundel County police revealed that MTA Light Rail operators may be disobeying protocol on this crucial safety issue because unless they stop for the required time at each station, the warning lights and gates simply do not have enough time to be deployed and warn motorists of an oncoming train. It is my hope that the story of Lamar's death will result in the enforcement of these rules, which are in place to keep our community members safe."

On February 2, 2022, Lamar Patterson, a 17-year-old Saint Frances Academy football player with offers from multiple prestigious colleges and universities, was heading west on Maple Road in a Honda Accord when a train driven by Smith approached the intersection, striking Patterson's vehicle and killing the teen. He had come to Maryland from Florida to attend Saint Frances, residing with a host family.

At the time, it was believed Patterson may have driven around the crossing gates. Video footage of the crash later revealed the rail crossing gates were not down at the time of the collision. It was further revealed the driver, Smith, ignored MTA protocol of waiting the required 30 seconds at the station and instead, waited just three seconds before proceeding on his route. He ignored the flashing Cross Warning Indicators that would have notified him that the gates weren't down. This resulted in the safety gates not being lowered as Patterson entered the intersection at the time of the crash.

On Friday, Smith entered a guilty plea to Reckless Endangerment in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant State's Attorney Carolynn Grammas on behalf of the citizens of Anne Arundel County, with the Honorable J. Michael Wachs presiding.