Teen-ager's slaying still controversial Woodlawn incident continues to spark debate, multiple accounts.

December 12, 1991

It was 9:58 a.m. that September Monday when Dale Workley looked out the window of the service department at Imperial Nissan and saw a Baltimore County police car parked facing the parking lot of Woodlawn High next door.

He saw a second cruiser ease in among nearby parked cars and the row of low trees separating the lot from school grounds.

On county police radio, Officer Randall Carrington was telling his dispatcher about the suspects he saw on the school parking lot "going in and out of cars."

"They got a guy lookin' out," he said of one, as the dispatcher coordinated the arrival of several more cars, which edged into position all around the campus and tried to stay out of sight. The dispatcher told arriving cars there was a "possible attempted theft of vehicle" under way at the school.

At 10:05 a.m., Sept 23, according to a tape of police communications that day, Carrington said, "They're all in the truck. Let's stop them before they get mobile."

Before 10:07 a.m., less than two minutes after the arrest attempt began, a police voice came back on the air with an urgent new message: "Get an ambo here, now!"

Sadiq A. Martin, 19, of northwest Baltimore, who was driving his mother's Dodge Raider that morning, was fatally shot once through the chest by county Officer Timothy Mitchem.

In the three months since, the case has spurred demonstrations by residents, led by the victim's parents and a clergyman, who feel prejudice and over-aggressiveness led a white officer to shoot a black teen-ager as police responded to what they believed was a theft in progress. Subsequently, a counter-demonstration was held in support of the police.

A county grand jury found the officer's actions justified. An FBI investigation, initiated at the department's request, is continuing.

The shooting occurred in mid-morning on a school field surrounded by police, not far from eyewitnesses at a high school and several businesses. Yet the sequence of events remains a matter of debate, even among people watching from the same vantage point, based on interviews with witnesses and the police radio tapes.

Three mechanics working in a garage just across Gwynn Oak Avenue from the school campus had the best view of the incident. They all report having seen the same things, and yet they disagree about whether the vehicle driven by Martin was charging down on Mitchem, or whether the officer put himself in harm's way. In either case, the eyewitness descriptions seem clear that Mitchem's decision to fire was made in a split-second.

Various witnesses around the high school that morning saw parts of the incident, which stretched across virtually the entire hilly, expansive campus, even though it took only two minutes.

At the Nissan dealership, Workley didn't pay close attention to the police cars at first.

When he looked a second time, he said, he saw a Dodge Raider utility truck flying across the school campus, skid into a 360-degree spin, and keep going as sirens wailed. A salesman at Imperial, Steven A. Raley, said the Raider was going so fast it almost turned over.

Across Woodlawn Drive, Corey Smith was working at a Jiffy Lube. He said he saw a marked police car suddenly block the entrance to the school lot, and an officer emerge to stand, gun drawn, as a private vehicle tried to exit the lot. It turned and drove off the lot, toward the other side of the campus, he said.

According to sources close to the investigation, Theron Hill, 20, a passenger in Martin's vehicle along with a 17-year old, said later that the first thing the youths knew about anyone watching them was when a man jumped onto the hood of their truck, gun drawn, and ordered them to stop. They did momentarily, but took off again.

Another witness, Elizabeth Parker, a school librarian at Woodlawn High, said she saw a man in a dark suit seem to jump out or away from the Dodge, then draw a gun, and stand, pointing it at the vehicle, which was stopped less than 6 feet away. The man moved away after a few seconds, she said, and the vehicle took off.

Before one minute had elapsed, various police voices on the tape said the Raider was "running across the lot . . . [we're] across the grass in pursuit." A few seconds later, an officer said "about to go on Gwynn Oak . . . coming to a stream . . . blocked in . . . we'll probably have a bail-out."

During these few seconds, police have said, plainclothes youth officers approached the Raider, which stopped briefly, and tried to open the doors. The truck brushed past them and sped away, dragging one officer for a few feet, and tapping a police car.

That's when Ed Rassen, Ed Farrow and a third mechanic working at the International Auto Repair garage in the 1800 block of Gwynn Oak Ave., across from the campus, noticed the fuss.

Rassen said he saw the Raider coming across the campus, behind the school's large track, toward Gwynn Oak Avenue, with two other cars just behind.

Due to the grading and the track, police seemed to have the Raider pinned in, witnesses said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.