Pitt student critically injured when hit, dragged by car

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The driver of a stolen car was speeding down the buses-only lane in Oakland at 70 mph Thursday night when he lost control, careened onto the sidewalk and struck a University of Pittsburgh graduate student who was dragged 50 feet under the chassis.

Jennifer Lynn Burroughs, 25, was in critical condition yesterday at UPMC Presbyterian after suffering a crushed pelvis, injuries to her skull and severe brain hemorrhaging.

Pittsburgh police said two men and a juvenile were taken into custody in connection with the incident, which occurred shortly after 9:30 p.m.

The driver, Christopher Titus, 19, of Garfield, got out of the car and ran from the scene. He was apprehended by University of Pittsburgh police and was awaiting arraignment last night.

Mr. Titus was charged with aggravated assault, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, theft, two counts of reckless endangerment and receiving stolen property.

Two brothers, Marlon Duke and Mason Duke, ages 19 and 15, also of Garfield, were passengers in the stolen car. Pittsburgh police homicide Lt. Kevin Kraus said they, too, were victims of the crash, and are not considered suspects.

Police said the car, which was reported stolen in Highland Park on Wednesday, was traveling in the buses-only lane on Fifth Avenue when it was spotted by a Port Authority police officer in his parked cruiser on McKee Place at Fifth Avenue.

The officer pulled out to pursue the speeding car, but he lost sight of it. Presuming the suspect could have turned onto Bigelow Boulevard, the officer did the same.

A moment later, as he was providing a description of the fleeing vehicle, he heard a police radio dispatch about a woman struck by a car about a block past Bigelow.

The vehicle had veered out of the way of an oncoming bus and struck a mailbox near where Ms. Burroughs was walking in front of the Pittsburgh Athletic Association building.

Ms. Burroughs, of Crafton, was dragged about 50 feet before the vehicle stopped and the occupants abandoned it, Lt. Kraus said.

According to a police affidavit, Mr. Titus told the passengers in the car he had been arrested before for stealing cars and did not want to go back to jail.

He said he was "calling it a day," meaning he intended to outrun the police and go home. Mr. Titus said a police cruiser turned on its lights about 60 feet behind him when he decided to push the limits of the gas pedal.

"Titus said he 'opened the [Chrysler] LHS up,'" the affidavit stated.

He told police he got about 200 feet ahead of the pursuing police officer and tried to turn left from the buses-only lane. He lost control of the car and traveled onto the sidewalk before he hit Ms. Burroughs, who "came out of nowhere."

Chad Church of Oakland, who witnessed the incident, said he ran over to offer assistance. Another man at the scene was yelling that there was a woman under the car.

Mr. Church said he frantically rounded up several people in the area to help him try to lift the car off of Ms. Burroughs, but they couldn't raise it. Medics and other emergency personnel soon arrived and removed the front bumper of the vehicle to extricate the woman.

"I just told her it was going to be OK," Mr. Church said. "She was moaning in pain."

Ms. Burroughs, a student at the university's Joseph M. Katz School of Business, was transported to UPMC Presbyterian, where she underwent emergency surgery.

She has worked since 2004 as a technical services representative in the architectural finishes section of PPG, company spokesman Jack Maurer said.

"All of her friends here are praying for her," Mr. Maurer said.

According to court records, Mr. Titus was arrested this year on charges of receiving stolen property and driving without a license.

He pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Robert C. Gallo to 18 months' probation.

Mr. Titus' preliminary hearing was set at 8 a.m. Thursday in Municipal Court.


Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939. Moustafa Ayad can be reached at mayad@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1731.


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