Officer's beating ordeal drives vulnerability home

January 30, 1992|By Darren M. Allen

When police Cpl. Robert Biggs pulled up to the side of Officer Darryl J. Chesney's police cruiser on a rural road in northern Baltimore County Tuesday night, he was sure his friend had been shot in the head.

"It's really hard to take when you pull up on a dark road and the first thing you see is someone you work with every day laying in a pool of blood," Corporal Biggs said yesterday, relieved that the nightmarish head wound he saw had not come from a bullet and would not be fatal.

Officer Chesney, 26, was beaten nearly unconscious with his flashlight after stopping two men in a stolen beige Chevrolet Monte Carlo on deserted Harris Mill Road -- a two-lane country byway near the Pennsylvania line.

Police said the men apparently fled into Pennsylvania with the officer's 9mm pistol and were at large yesterday -- the targets of an intensive two-state manhunt.

Officer Chesney received nine stitches at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore to close a large gash over an eye. He likely will return home today, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman.

For Corporal Biggs and other officers based in Cockeysville, the hTC beating was a reminder of the murder nearly two years ago of state police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf along Interstate 95 in Howard County.

"It makes you think a little bit before stopping that next car," said Corporal Biggs, a 10-year veteran and the first officer at the scene Tuesday night. "It just takes one incident to bring it all home."

Fellow officers described Officer Chesney yesterday as a hard-working cop who rarely takes chances -- suggesting that what happened to the five-year veteran could happen to any police officer.

"You can be the best-prepared officer, but if you're by yourself in a deserted area, chances are somebody can get you," Corporal Biggs said.

Officer Chesney was responsible for patrolling the northern, mostly rural and sparsely populated section of the county -- an area roughly the size of Baltimore City. As usual, Tuesday night, he was alone in his police cruiser.

Officer Chesney stopped the Monte Carlo at 8:25 p.m., calling in the location, a description of the car and the numbers on its dealer license tags by radio before getting out of his cruiser. Minutes later, Officer Chesney hit the emergency button on a portable radio -- sending out a signal for help that brought Corporal Biggs racing from Hunt Valley.

"It's not like Darryl to accidentally hit his emergency button," Corporal Biggs said. "When I heard that, I knew he was in trouble."

Robert E. Miller, a 51-year-old teacher, was already there -- brought to the scene by his sister-in-law, Peggy Shemonski, after she drove by and saw Officer Chesney halfway out of his cruiser and waving.

"She thought he meant he was waving her back," said Mr. Miller, who lives about a quarter-mile from the scene. "When I got there . . . I thought he was dying, with all the blood on his shirt. He was quivering, probably in shock."

Mr. Miller said he saw the officer's long-handled flashlight lying in front of the cruiser along the road's shoulder, its beam still shining.

The attackers were described as white. One was about 5 feet 6 inches tall and 40 years old, with a stocky build, wearing a gray sports jacket and gray pants and speaking with a thick New York accent. The other was said to be about 30, thinner and taller, with long, greasy brown hair and wearing a blue work shirt and pants, police said.

The Chevrolet's license tag -- 1A47651, as reported by Officer

Chesney -- proved to be stolen from an employee's car at A&B Auto Sales in the 6200 block of Belair Road in Baltimore, Sergeant Doarnberger said. The owner of the car, which is believed to be about 10 years old, was not known.

Officer Chesney did not wish to talk to a reporter yesterday. Fellow Officer Curt Brocato, standing near the hospital room and speaking for the family, said Officer Chesney has been married for about five years and lives with wife, Vida, in a small town house in a quiet Hampstead neighborhood.

Mrs. Chesney and her brother -- children of Italian immigrants -- own a small Italian restaurant on the outskirts of the Carroll County town.

"They're both really busy with work," said Bonnie Lawson, a neighbor who has known the Chesneys since 1988. "They were too busy to even put up their Christmas tree."

Word of the beating spread throughout the Chesneys' neighborhood yesterday.

"I can't believe that he got knocked over the head," said the neighborhood's postman, Daniel Lynch. "They all put their lives on the line, knowing that any traffic stop can end up in Shock Trauma."

Officer Chesney began his police career at the Woodlawn precinct, where he also was a patrol officer. In 1990, he was transferred to Cockeysville. His brother, Danny Chesney, is a sergeant at Woodlawn, and their brother Bobby is a county firefighter there.

"His mother is always expecting that call," Officer Brocato said.

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