Sheriff faults county in holding of deputy

March 18, 1993|By Mike James | Mike James,Staff Writer

Carroll County Sheriff John H. Brown says an incident Tuesday -- in which a deputy was held at gunpoint by a man who subsequently committed suicide -- illustrates the county's failure to provide money for adequate equipment and personnel.

Sheriff Brown, who came to Carroll after retiring from the Baltimore city police force, said he is angry.

"What's it going to take, one of my deputies getting killed?" he asked. "We have to beg for necessities.

"It's a matter of priorities. What's a police officer's life worth?"

Deputy Ed Smith said he felt he was unnecessarily put in a life-threatening situation because he had neither backup nor a radio.

"I've got a problem with this county not supplying equipment," said Deputy Smith, who joined the sheriff's department two years ago after he retired from a 22-year career with the Baltimore police. "And you just shouldn't be making someone go out on a warrant alone."

Deputy Smith had been sent to a Hampstead apartment -- alone and without a police radio -- to serve a warrant on a 25-year-old man sought for violating probation.

The man surprised the officer by pulling a .32-caliber revolver and pointing it at him, the deputy said.

"I was being held hostage, and I was wondering how long it was going to take," Deputy Smith said after the ordeal. "I tried to engage him in conversation. . . . He had just read the Bible and I asked him if he believed in God, and in heaven and hell. I was just stalling for time, hoping my dispatcher would send someone."

The man, whose identity is being withheld by authorities, forced Deputy Smith to read his suicide note, then shot himself.

Sheriff Brown said he has been fighting with county officials to get more money for portable radios, which cost about $1,000 apiece. Some deputies carry them, "but there aren't enough of them to go around," Sheriff Brown said.

The 45-year-old deputy had gone to the apartment in the 1200 block of N. Main St. about 8:15 p.m. to serve an arrest warrant on the man.

The deputy said he knocked on the door of the apartment and was met by the suspect, who at first seemed cooperative. Sheriff's officials had no information about why the man was on probation.

Deputy Smith said the man agreed to come along and turned to get his coat. Suddenly, the deputy said, the man spun around and was holding a gun he had concealed.

The gunman picked up a note from a table and handed it to the deputy, demanding he read it.

The deputy had just begun reading the note when he heard a gunshot behind him. He said he turned and saw the man on the floor.

"I didn't have a radio to contact anyone," Deputy Smith said, "so I went out in the hallway and was met by a neighbor who heard the shot. I used a phone in one of the apartments to get help."

When the deputy went back in the apartment, he saw the man had shot himself in the right temple and was still alive, but unconscious.

The man died at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

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