For the surviving friends and family of James Feltis, the pain is still fresh. Only three months ago, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce posthumously awarded Feltis a gold medal for his valor on Jan. 11, 2005. That was the day he died attempting to stop a carjacker from ramming a stolen 2002 black Cadillac into innocent commuters in the midst of the morning rush-hour traffic at the ramp from Interstate 395 to Route 27.
“James stepped in front of that car to save a life,” said wife Mary Feltis, holding back tears as she accepted the award for her late husband in April. “He didn't hesitate.”
On Friday, Ossie LaRode, 22, pleaded guilty to the murder of Feltis, who was working as an officer of the Pentagon Police Department. LaRode also pleaded guilty to the use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said in a written statement that LaRode faces a sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced in September.
THE TRAGIC INCIDENT started shortly after 8 a.m. on Jan. 11, 2005 at the McDonald’s on North Henry Street, where LaRode approached a 65-year-old man who was leaving the fast-food restaurant. He struck the man and implied that he had a weapon, stealing the car and leading Alexandria police officers on a chase through the streets of Del Ray. When the man would not stop, Virginia state troopers and a Fairfax County police helicopter joined the pursuit.
The chase began in the north west area of Old Town, moving up Mount Vernon Avenue toward South Glebe Road and finally to I-395 toward the Pentagon. Feltis, 41, was a 10-year veteran of the Pentagon Police Department. After being struck, he was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was being treated for a massive head wound, internal bleeding and a fractured leg. After struggling for a month, Feltis died on Feb. 14, 2005. He was survived by his wife and a 6-year-old daughter.
“Our hearts to out to the wife and daughter of Officer Feltis and to his entire Pentagon Police Department family,” said Rosenberg in a written statement. “Officer Feltis died a hero, trying to protect others from a dangerous criminal. We miss him very much.”