Baltimore officer convicted of beating is fired from force

December 10, 1990|By Roger Twigg

A Baltimore police officer who was convicted in Circuit Court 10 months ago for severely beating a 16-year-old suspect with a heavy, five-cell flashlight has been fired from the department for using excessive force.

The incident occurred in October 1989, when off-duty Western District Officer Malachai Wilson Jr. spotted his sister's stolen car being driven in West Baltimore by three youths. He and another officer, who was on duty and in uniform, chased the three as they ran from the car, and Officer Wilson managed to corner one of them at the end of dead-end street, according to information brought before a police trial board.

The youth told the police that he put his hands on a fence and stood with his back to the officer, who struck him on the back of the head and yelled, "Do you like to steal cars? Don't you ever take anything that belongs to me again." Witnesses also said that they saw the officer beat and kick the youth while he was lying on the ground.

According to Michael A. Fry, an assistant city solicitor who represents the department at disciplinary boards, Officer Wilson, a three-year veteran of the police department, was tried before a three-member departmental board and found guilty of using excessive force; common-law assault; possession of a deadly weapon; using unwarranted action; and bringing discredit upon the department.

He was acquitted of assault with intent to commit murder.

After the decision by the board, Officer Wilson was fired by the police commissioner, Edward V. Woods, in November.

The departmental charges and the dismissal of Officer Wilson follow his conviction last February in Circuit Court on criminal charges stemming from the same incident. He was found guilty of assault by Judge David Mitchell and was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence, placed on 18 months' probation and ordered to pay court costs.

Herbert R. Weiner, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, said that the police union intends to appeal both Officer Wilson's criminal conviction and his dismissal from the Police Department. He said the officer used reasonable force to arrest someone suspected of stealing a car.

"We believe he was acting within the scope of the law as a police officer," Mr. Weiner said. "It involved a stolen vehicle, and he was just defending himself."

At his hearing, Officer Wilson denied using excessive force and contended that a fight began when the youth reached into his pocket as though going for a weapon.

The youth suffered numerous lacerations on the head and face that required sutures; a broken nose; swollen jaw; and an eye injury that has caused temporary loss of sight, Mr. Fry said. The youngster has also experienced respiratory and psychological problems since the incident, he said.

"This was a property offense," said M. Cristina Gutierrez, a lawyer who represented the youth's family. "We're talking about a car. He had no right to do what he did."

Ms. Gutierrez described the youth as a slow-learning boy who recently turned 18. "He is about 6 feet 4 inches and pencil-thin. Despite his height, his appearance is not in the least threatening. He is the physical persona of mildness and meekness," she said.

Mr. Fry said the youth was charged, as a juvenile, with auto theft, but the charge was later dropped.

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