A burly Baltimore truck driver identified Eric Joseph Tirado yesterday as the driver of a Chevrolet Nova that was pulled over on Interstate 95 by a state police cruiser only moments before a trooper was murdered at that spot.
John S. Anderson, 32, picked out Tirado at the defense table in a Howard County courtroom, despite his change in appearance since the shooting of Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf about 3:30 a.m. March 29, 1990.
"He is wearing a two-tone brown and white sweater and glasses and is seated at the defense table," Mr. Anderson said. "He is shaved and does not have a beard and he is wearing glasses, but his hair is the same."
When Tirado was arrested, he had several days' growth of beard but now has only a mustache.
What Mr. Anderson said he saw as he drove parallel to the Nova near Route 175 in Jessup was the profile of a man "of Hispanic or Middle Eastern descent in his late 20s or early 30s with thick eyebrows, dark-complexioned, a three- to four-day growth of beard and curly, collar-length hair."
He said his truck and the Nova were doing about 72 mph when the driver of a state police cruiser turned on emergency overhead lights and shined a spotlight in the car.
"The Nova kept riding at the same speed when the trooper turned his lights on. I was kind of curious," said the bearded truck driver, who sports tattoos on his forearms. It was not unusual for him to look into passing cars, he added, because "sometimes late at night you can see things inside a car that amuse you."
"Mr. Anderson, look around the courtroom and tell us if you can see today the person who drove the blue Nova March 29, 1990?" asked prosecutor Timothy Wolf.
"Yes, I do," said Mr. Anderson, pointing out Tirado, 27, of the Bronx, N.Y.
Mr. Anderson said he recognized Tirado as the man driving the car last November when he saw "a man being led with handcuffs" on a television news show.
He realized then, he said, "That's the man I saw driving the vehicle when the trooper was shot."
He later said he saw the defendant again on television in late May and last week.
Tirado's lawyer, Mark Van Bavel, questioned Mr. Anderson sharply, wondering whether he was influenced by seeing the defendant on television and asking the truck driver why the description he gave a police artist didn't resemble Tirado.
But Mr. Anderson insisted the man he saw was Tirado. "You could have told me he was George Washington," he said, "but his facial features confirmed that he was the person driving the blue Nova that morning."