‘Danger to the community’: Judge orders Maryland teen charged with mowing down officer held

The 19-year-old Maryland man accused of intentionally striking a Montgomery County police officer on Interstate 270 early Wednesday has an extensive history of trying to “bait” officers into high-speed chases — and it appears he doesn’t even have a license, prosecutors said.

Raphael Mayorga, of Frederick, has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and several other charges in the crash that critically wounded Sgt. Patrick Kepp, 36.

In his first appearance Thursday in Rockville District Court, Mayorga was ordered held without bond by Associate Judge Zuberi Williams, who called the teen “a danger to the community” after hearing from prosecutors about the string of alleged prior reckless driving incidents. A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 17.

A history of baiting officers

Mayorga has a long list of arrests and charges that range from speeding to aggressive and reckless driving, according to authorities.

Prosecutors told the judge that on four separate occasions between April and June of this year, Mayorga is accused of “baiting police officers” to chase him, and that he and his green Dodge Challenger were so well-known to police that officers had Mayorga’s phone number and would often call him during such chases to tell him to stop.

“Police knew exactly who he was … Sometimes he would deny who was doing it even though the police could see him doing it. Other times he dared them to come and stop him and arrest him,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Dietrich said, who added that it appears Mayorga only had a learner’s permit and not a full license.

In one of those incidents on May 26, Kepp — the same officer who was struck Wednesday — attempted to pull Mayorga over for going 136 mph in a 55 mph zone in an apparent street race with another driver, according to court documents.

Kepp had also tried to pull Mayorga over in April 2021. Court documents said Mayorga, then still a juvenile, fled a traffic stop initiated by Kepp and crashed into another person, causing injury. In that case, Mayorga’s charges were referred to juvenile court, according to court documents.

In the incident Wednesday, police said Mayorga was speeding on I-270 near Gaithersburg shortly after 3:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Kepp was attempting to lay out “stop strips” across the roadway that would puncture the tires of Mayorga’s vehicle to stop him when Mayorga “swerved toward him,” struck him and “basically crushed his legs,” Dietrich said.

Kepp, who remains in the hospital, lost both his legs, a Montgomery County police spokesperson said.

Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse Thursday, Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said the officer has profound injuries that will likely “disable him for the rest of his life.”

McCarthy said Mayorga was served an arrest warrant in early June in connection with the four earlier chases, but he was allowed to remain free on bond. He was on parole at the time of the crash, McCarthy said.

“He was unlicensed, on probation, and was engaging in a series of these kinds of activities, very, very similar to the tragic circumstances that resulted in these catastrophic injuries to Officer Kepp,” McCarthy said of Mayorga’s alleged history of reckless driving.

Mayorga’s attorney with the Montgomery County office of the public defender had asked the judge to release him on 24-hour house arrest, saying he lives at home with his parents in Frederick. But the judge said, “I don’t think it’s going to keep the community safe.”

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

Heather Gustafson

Heather Gustafson is a Freelance Anchor/Reporter for WTOP, a DMV native and an Emmy award-winning journalist lauded for her 2020 Black Lives Matter protests coverage.

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