A drug dealer who was wearing a shoulder holster under his bathrobe was fatally shot in a West Baltimore alley last night after he pointed a handgun at pursuing police officers, city police said.
Nathaniel M. Newkirk Jr., 28, was shot four times in the chest and abdomen about 7:30 p.m. by Officer Robert L. Smith, an undercover officer in the Southwestern District's drug enforcement unit, police said.
City police spokesman Dennis Hill said police pursued Newkirk after five plainclothes narcotics officers saw him selling heroin to man at Winchester and Poplar Grove streets moments earlier.
The officers were in the area responding to residents' complaints about drug dealing there, police said. Sgt. J.C. Smith, head of the Southwestern District's drug unit, described Newkirk as an "up-and-coming drug dealer" who had been staying at a rowhouse in the 1200 block of Poplar Grove St. for about two months. He said residents reported that Newkirk lived somewhere in New Jersey.
Hill and Sergeant Smith gave this account of the events:
Newkirk left the house on Poplar Grove Street shortly before 7:30 p.m. wearing bedroom slippers, trousers, white socks and a blue bathrobe, under which he wore a shoulder holster containing a .45-caliber automatic.
"He walked out of his house wearing a bathrobe like he was stepping outside to pick up the newspaper," said Hill.
About a block away, a man identified as Andre Murphy, 36, of the 2200 block of W. Lafayette Ave., walked up to the man in the bathrobe and exchanged money for heroin. The five officers got out of their unmarked car parked a few feet away and approached the two men.
Murphy was arrested immediately by Officer Delphine Houston, who found three $30 bags of heroin on him.
The other man broke and ran east on Winchester Street to Dukeland Street, losing his bedroom slippers. He then ran south on Dukeland before darting down a snowy and ice-covered alley in the rear of the 2700 block of Winchester St.
Officers Smith and Edward Wilson were close behind him and identified themselves as police officers.
The man continued about 150 feet down the alley, then slipped and fell on the ice.
The officers approached with their revolvers drawn and were about 6 feet away when the man reached under his bathrobe, pulled out a .45-caliber automatic and pointed it at the two officers.
Officer Smith fired five shots from his .38-caliber revolver. Four of the bullets hit Newkirk in the chest and abdomen. Newkirk never got off a shot. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A wad of bills amounting to nearly $700 was found in Newkirk's clothing, Hill said.
Later, police searched the home on Poplar Grove Street and found two fully loaded 12-gauge shotguns, several shotgun shells and a safe believed used to store narcotics, all thought to ++ be Newkirk's, Sergeant Smith said.
The sergeant said he recognized Newkirk as a man he stopped earlier in a drug-free zone on suspicion of possession of drugs.
"We knew he was down here from New Jersey and was probably dealing in drugs," Smith said, "but he never had anything on him when we searched him."
Officer Smith was placed on administrative leave pending a review by the police department and the state's attorney's office.
Hill said it appeared Officer Smith followed regulations when it came to using deadly force.
Murphy was taken to the Southwestern District station and charged with possession of heroin. He was held overnight pending a bail hearing today before a District Court commissioner.
"Nearly all our busts go down without anyone getting hurt," Sergeant Smith said. "but every once in a while gunfire erupts and somebody get hurts real bad."