Officer cleared in pregnant woman's shooting death Victim's mother questions findings

October 12, 1990|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

The U.S. Department of Justice has found no grounds to prosecute a county police officer who shot and killed a pregnant woman when officers serving a search warrant burst into a Severn home last year.

Crystal B. Nelson, 26, who was nine months pregnant, was killed Oct. 20 when county police Officer Thomas G. Tyzack, as part of a drug raid on the home, tried to remove her from the couch as she slept and his 9mm gun went off. County State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee, who declined to press charges, ruled that although Tyzack was negligent, no proof could be found of "willful and wanton disregard for human life."

The Justice Department closed the case Sept. 25, after almost a year of investigation.

"After reviewing the reported complaint, this matter does not constitute a violation under federal criminal civil rights statues," Obern Rainey, a spokeswoman for the department, said yesterday.

Virginia Wallace, Crystal Nelson's mother, said she has never been contacted by the Justice Department and was disappointed by the findings.

"I don't even think they took the time to come out here and talk to anyone," she said yesterday.

Jean Creek, president of the county chapter of the NAACP, filed the complaint against the officer last November. She said yesterday she had not been notified of the decision to close the case.

"I have real concerns about the quality of the investigation," she said. "There is no evidence of a real investigation going on."

Creek said she knew of no one who had been questioned in the case.

"I don't think they did a lot of work on it at all," she said.

Nelson was asleep, facing the inside of the couch, in a home in the 1800 block of Eagle Court when members of the county police Special Operations Section burst in around midnight to serve a drug warrant.

Tyzack, the point man in the SOS unit designed to help serve drug warrants, shouted at her three times to get up, police said, but she did not move. Because she was covered with a blanket, the officer did not know if he was dealing with a man or a woman, police said.

Tyzack had his gun in his right hand and a ballistic shield in his left hand. His gun accidentally went off when he tried to remove her from the couch with his right hand, police said, hitting her in the back .

"Although we have not reviewed the report, the results you have notified us of mirrors the outcome of other investigations into this incident," said police spokesman Sgt. Joseph H. Bisesi. "This incident has saddened everyone involved."

Since the shooting, Tyzack has been moved off the SOS unit and into the department's Criminal Investigation Division.

Nelson's family has filed a $15 million negligence suit in federal District Court in Baltimore naming Tyzack, Chief George Wellham III, County Executive O. James Lighthizer and the County Council as defendants.

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