Police kill suspected thief, 14 Boy shot in back trying to escape

April 18, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A Baltimore police officer fatally shot a 14-year-old boy in the back yesterday morning as the youngster attempted to flee arrest as a car-theft suspect, police and prosecutors said.

State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms immediately ordered a grand jury probe into the shooting death of Simmont Donta Thomas, saying "there are a substantial number of unresolved questions."

Western District Officer Edward T. Gorwell II, 24, who has been on the police force for two years, was assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the grand jury review of his actions in shooting the boy, said Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman.

The incident occurred about 1 a.m. near Gwynns Falls Park, where police chased a 1992 Chrysler New Yorker that had been reported stolen earlier from the Mondawmin area, Mr. Ringgold said.

The car, occupied by four juveniles, "crashed into two or three cars" during the chase and came to a stop in the 900 block of Ellicott Driveway, on the eastern edge of the park, Mr. Ringgold said.

"At that point, all four of the suspects bailed out," Mr. Ringgold said. "The officer got out of his patrol car and took up foot pursuit. During that pursuit, he discharged his weapon."

The Thomas youth, who was in the rear seat of the car, collapsed and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The boy's address was listed as the 1700 block of N. Warwick Ave. in West Baltimore.

The three other suspects were still being sought last night.

Police would not disclose where the Thomas youth was shot, other than to say in the "upper body area." But Mr. Simms said a preliminary report indicated that the boy was shot in the back.

Mr. Simms last month submitted to a city grand jury another police-related fatal shooting, that of 15-year-old Antoine Johnson, who was killed by Western District Officer Nicholas Pelekakis after the boy allegedly tried to run the officer down in a stolen car. The grand jury refused to indict the officer.

"We evaluate each case as it comes to us. But [in yesterday's case] the evidence does not resolve a substantial number of questions," Mr. Simms said.

He refused to say what those unanswered questions were, adding, "I'm not going to outline the evidence at this point, nor its deficiencies."

The fatal shooting was the fifth involving Baltimore City police officers this year. In 1992, there were eight, police officials said.

This year's first incident occurred Jan. 13, when Raleigh D. Lemon, 32, was shot in the back by Western District Officer Darlene Early after he tried to escape from police custody while being treated at Bon Secours Hospital. Investigators said Mr. Lemon, who had been arrested on burglary charges, reached back and attempted to grab the officer's gun.

On March 8, James Harrington Lewis, 23, was shot in the abdomen by Southern District Officer Joseph F. Stephens as police were trying to arrest him on cocaine charges. Police alleged that the man was about to attack an undercover narcotics officer with a shovel.

Two weeks later, on March 22, the Johnson youth was shot in the back by Officer Pelekakis. The boy was suspected of stealing a car at knifepoint from a salesman during a test drive.

On April 5, Ronald Veronica Spinnicchio, 43, was hit in the face, neck and left shoulder by a 12-gauge shotgun blast fired by Northern District Officer Paul D. Coursey. Police said Mr. Spinnicchio was dressed in a nightgown and acting deranged when he pointed a 9mm handgun at officers who went to his house to investigate gunshots.

All four shootings were ruled justifiable, police officials said.

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