A city grand jury will look into a fatal shooting in which a Baltimore police officer fired at a 15-year-old boy who allegedly tried to run him down in a stolen car, the city state's attorney said yesterday.
The officer, Nicholas Pelekakis, 37, a 13-year veteran assigned to the Western District, claimed that the youth, Antoine Johnson of the 2000 block of Linden Ave., had thrown the car into reverse and was driving at him, police said.
But while some witnesses corroborate the officer's account, others do not, said city State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms. He has ordered that the findings of the police investigation be reviewed by a grand jury.
Most police shootings are investigated by police, and the police findings are reviewed by an assistant state's attorney. The grand jury will be used in this case because of the conflicting statements, Mr. Simms said.
A preliminary review of the facts in the shooting show that the bullet fired from the officer's 9 mm handgun passed through the driver's seat of the car and struck the Johnson youth in the back, police said. That is contrary to statements by several witnesses who claimed that the officer unjustly fired at the Johnson youth while he was out of the car with his hands up, police said.
The incident began sometime before 5 p.m. Monday when young male now believed to have been the Johnson youth visited Brown's Honda City in the 5800 block of Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn Park and asked to test drive a 1992 Toyota Cressida, police said.
Robert James Crawford, 48, a salesman at the dealership got into the car with the youth and allowed him to drive without asking to see his driver's license, police said. When the Cressida arrived at Belle Grove Road and Ritchie highway, the youth pulled a knife and forced the salesman out of the car.
The youth drove to Baltimore where he picked up two other youths ages 16 and 17 and told them that the car belonged to his girlfriend, police said.
While driving his patrol car in the 2800 block of Druid Park Drive, Officer Pelekakis saw the Cressida and became suspicious because it bore a dealer's tag, police said. He ran a check on the car and learned that it had been taken in a car theft in Anne Arundel County.
The officer activated the emergency siren and lights on his police car, and the vehicle sped off, police said.
The stolen car was pursued along Druid Park Drive to Park Circle where the driver lost control, struck several vehicles stopped in traffic, and jumped a curb. It came to rest on a grassy area adjacent to a business in the 3300 block of Park Circle.
Officer Pelekakis then pulled his patrol car to the rear of the Cressida and ordered the occupants out, said Sam Ringgold, police spokesman.
The passengers complied, but the Johnson youth "placed the car in reverse and started backing toward the officer," Mr. Ringgold said, adding: "At that point the officer tried to jump out of the way and fired his gun one time after interpreting the youth's action as life threatening."
The bullet penetrated the right rear passenger door and passed through the driver's seat, striking the youth in the upper right back, Mr. Ringgold said. It then exited the left side of his chest.
The suspect's car then slammed into the right front portion of the officer's patrol car.
Police said the other two youths in the car will not be charged with any crimes, since they were apparently unaware the car had been stolen when they accepted the ride.
Officer Pelekakis will be assigned to desk duties pending the outcome of the investigation, standard city police procedure when an officer has fired his weapon, police said.
The victim's parents, reached at their Linden Avenue home last night, where they made funeral arrangements, said they believed their son was shot without provocation but did not want to comment further.
The Johnson youth had recently been released from the Charles E. Hickey Jr. School for juvenile offenders. A source close to the investigation said that the youth's record dates back four years and includes charges of assault, armed robbery and auto theft.
Officials at Brown's Honda City in Brooklyn Park yesterday declined to comment.