Volunteer fireman charged in theft of cash from car wreck victim's body

August 11, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

A county volunteer firefighter charged with stealing money from the body of a Severna Park man killed in a car accident Sunday faces departmental charges and has been banned from responding to fire calls.

William Bruce Cooper, 27, of the 100 block of Warwickshire Lane in Glen Burnie, was charged with theft Sunday night. Police investigators said he stole $120 from the pockets of Harry John Shew, 45, who had been killed in a car accident on Route 10.

Fire department spokesman Capt. Gary Sheckells said Mr. Cooper, a volunteer at the Ferndale company, will be charged administratively with conduct unbecoming a firefighter and will face a disciplinary hearing.

"He did confess to police, but first he denied it and said he got the money from his wife," Captain Sheckells said.

According to the police report, Mr. Shew, who was pronounced dead at the scene of the 4 p.m. accident, was taken by ambulance to North Arundel Hospital. The ambulance crew, including Mr. Cooper, searched Mr. Shew's pockets for identification.

They found $394, which was put in an envelope and turned over to hospital personnel. At some point, Mr. Cooper took $120 from that envelope, the police report said.

No one saw Mr. Cooper take the money, the police report said, but allegedly he later boasted about the theft to another firefighter, saying "Wasn't that slick?" and offering to share the cash with him.

That firefighter reported the alleged incident to his superiors, who notified police.

Mr. Shew was on his way home from Pimlico Race Track, where he ran several kitchens, when he lost control of his car. He was thrown from his Toyota when it collided with another car.

"I knew he must have had plenty of money on him," said Marie DeFlavis, Mr. Shew's mother. "My son always had a lot of money. I can't believe this."

Mrs. DeFlavis said her son's jewelry -- a watch, two necklaces and his wedding band -- plus the rest of the cash, two pagers and a briefcase were still missing yesterday.

"We didn't get anything back," she said, adding that the hospital returned a small identification case and a checkbook, but nothing else.

Kevin Murnane, a North Arundel Hospital spokesman, said Mr. Shew was wearing only a ring on his left hand when he arrived at the hospital and he left the hospital with that ring.

"When he was ejected from the car, the watch could have been broken," Mr. Murnane said.

He said Mr. Shew was wearing no necklaces at the hospital, and a large amount of cash was turned over to a family member who identified himself as Mr. Shew's son.

Although fire officials have banned Mr. Cooper, a two-year veteran, from responding to fire calls, it is up to Volunteer Chief Jay Olson to decide whether Mr. Cooper will be allowed on the station property.

"We have recommended that they do not allow him on the property," Captain Sheckells said.

Chief Olson could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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