It was a dangerous and illegal car stunt show that created gridlock on the Beltway in College Park, Maryland, on Saturday. Among the many motorists witnessing the event was a family from Upper Marlboro.
Damon and Tania Allen and their 18-year-old son were traveling on the Inner Loop, heading home after spending time at Bishop’s Garden at the Washington National Cathedral, when they first noticed smoke rising from the Outer Loop.
“My first thought was there was a possible automobile that’s on fire, so we were very concerned about the situation,” said Damon Allen.
But as their travel lanes slowed to a standstill because of onlookers, they soon noticed the smoke was coming from several cars doing donuts, at times coming within inches of each other and the Jersey walls on both sides of the road.
“I’m astonished that this is happening in the middle of the Beltway, on not a movie set but just a regular highway,” said Tania Allen, who was driving the family’s car at the time.
The couple said it seemed the group involved was organized, with a line of vehicles that parked side by side to prevent traffic on the Outer Loop from moving forward so that the risky stunts could take place.
While Damon Allen said his son enjoyed watching the cars do tricks, for the parents, their first concern was about the people stuck behind those tricks.
“There could have been a woman that was in labor that could not go through. There were people that may have been trying to get to work that were then late getting to work because of this stunt,” Tania Allen said.
Not to mention the fact that those participating in the stunts could have hurt themselves, the couple said.
In a video taken from the couple’s car, three drivers are seen doing circles on the travel lanes as tires screeched and smoke rose from their spinning wheels. The cars participating didn’t appear to have license plates.
Greg Shipley of Maryland State Police said cars without tags is common with this sort of activity.
“Our troopers have found that these individuals do all they can to conceal their identities and their vehicles’ identities, and that means altering tags or removing tags,” Shipley said.
While responding to the scene, troopers received a call that the group had moved to nearby Route 212. There, police stopped a 2020 Dodge Charger that was driven by Jonathan C. Iraheta, 20, of Beltsville, Maryland, who was reportedly traveling 90 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone. Iraheta has been hit with a list of charges, including reckless, negligent and aggressive driving — with fines totaling $1,800.
Shipley said Iraheta hasn’t been connected so far to what happened on the Beltway and that the search for the drivers involved in that activity continues.
“What occurred on the Capitol Beltway that many have seen now on videos is disturbing,” Shipley said.
He said that if you’re in a car and find yourself near this sort of activity, try to get away from it by going off the road or exiting the highway, if you can. If stuck in the gridlock the careless drivers create, he said call the police and give them the best descriptions you can of the people and vehicles involved. If you take video, share that with the police.
What Shipley said you should not do is try to bring an end to the activity yourself.
“It is certainly best not to engage those individuals. That can certainly lead to other issues,” Shipley said.
As for the Allens, they believe that if drivers want to do stunts, they should be able to — but not on a public road.
“Do something like this in a protected area. You can videotape it and you can post it wherever you want. But in the middle of the highway is not the place to do that. It’s just reckless,” Tania Allen said.
Her husband Damon, a car enthusiast, agreed. “Protect yourselves, protect other people, take it off the main highway,” he said.