A Columbia man who left a drug treatment center where he was awaiting sentencing told a judge yesterday that he fled to California in May out of fear that he would be killed because he sold drugs to two Howard County police officers.
The allegations by Brian M. Bumbrey were scoffed at by the prosecutor and police, and Circuit Judge J. Thomas Nissel made no reference to them when he sentenced the defendant yesterday to 6 1/2 years in prison for burglary and theft.
Bumbrey maintained that he and the late Carl Jonathan Bowie, a 19-year-old Columbia man who was found hanged May 4 behind a Columbia school, had sold drugs to two officers.
"If I had not left, I would be dead," the 23-year-old said.
Mr. Bowie's death, ruled a suicide, prompted an outcry from Columbia residents who did not believe that he killed himself and noted that he had filed brutality charges against three officers who arrested him while breaking up a party in January.
A subsequent state police investigation turned up no evidence of foul play.
Frederick W. Chaney, the Howard County police chief, challenged the allegations made by Bumbrey.
"As far as I am concerned, it is absolutely a fabrication," the chief said. "There is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that any of that is true."
Bumbrey's allegations reportedly were videotaped in a conversation he had with an attorney shortly after his arrest in July in San Diego on a traffic charge.
Chief Chaney said that he had seen the videotaped interview and that "it is a laugh-in."
He said the department had sought to interview Bumbrey further but was asked by his lawyer to wait until the criminal case was over.
"What he has said so far are just general allegations, and I don't put any credence in what he says unless he can furnish us specifics which can be verified," Chief Chaney said.
Assistant Howard County State's Attorney Lillian P. Clark said Bumbrey "betrayed the trust" of the court by fleeing to California after he was released pending sentencing to attend a drug treatment program.
She said she did not believe Bumbrey's allegations against the police, saying they were "another excuse by him" to justify his crimes.
Officer Gary L. Gardner, the Police Department's spokesman, said there was no evidence to suggest the late Mr. Bowie was selling drugs, as alleged in court by Bumbrey.
He also said Bumbrey had fled the county and had gone to California in 1986 when he was wanted on other burglary and theft charges. Bumbrey was arrested on those charges Jan. 6, 1987, after returning to Columbia, Officer Gardner said.
At a May 2 hearing, Bumbrey pleaded guilty to one count of burglary of a house in the eastern section of Columbia Nov. 1, 1989, in which sunglasses, tennis shoes and money were stolen, and to misdemeanor theft of a watch. The sentencing yesterday was for those convictions.