Mother contends she was misled about son's death

April 19, 1993|By Kris Antonelli and Robert Hilson Jr. | Kris Antonelli and Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

Nearly 11 hours after a city police officer shot and killed a 14-year-old who fled to avoid being arrested in a car theft, Western District police told the boy's mother her son had been arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center, the woman said yesterday.

Myra Green, the mother of Simmont Donta Thomas, said that she did not learn about her son's death until she called the state medical examiner's office around noon.

"I said something ain't right because I called Hickey [the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School for delinquents] and they said he wasn't there, and I called every hospital I could think of and he wasn't at any of them," Myra Green said.

Police spokesman Sam Ringgold said he was unaware of the information Ms. Green said was provided to her by officers at the Western District. Efforts to reach the shift commander, who would have been on duty at the time of her call, were unsuccessful.

Simmont, of the 1700 block of N. Warwick Ave., was shot in the back, according to State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms, by a Western District officer as he and his companions ran from the stolen car after it crashed in the 900 block of Ellicott Driveway in Gwynns Falls Park at 1 a.m. Saturday.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police questioned two 15-year-old youths over the weekend who were with Simmont when he was shot and killed by a city officer as he fled to avoid being arrested in a car theft.

But police officials said they did not plan to charge anyone with the theft until completion of an investigation into the shooting.

Mr. Ringgold said investigators were still looking last night for a 16-year-old who also was with the teen-agers when they allegedly stole a 1992 Chrysler New Yorker from the Mondawmin area early Saturday.

Ms. Green said that she last saw her son late Friday. When she looked for him Saturday morning and saw he had not slept in his bed, she called his friends seeking his whereabouts and then filed a missing person report.

About 11 a.m., she called police at Western District station to see if he had been arrested.

"They shot my baby in the back and then tell me that he's at Hickey," Ms. Green said. "I don't know how or why they thought he was there when they had already killed him."

According to an interview on WBAL Channel 11 with two teen-agers who said they were with Simmont, the officer began chasing the boys and when he realized he could not catch them he yelled to them: "Come here m."

"He pulled out the gun and fired once," the boy said in the WBAL interview. "I thought it was a warning shot."

The teen-agers said they did not have a weapon and did not know their friend had been shot until Simmont's mother told them.

The youths told Channel 11 they had stolen the car to go joy-riding.

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, Mr. Ringgold said.

Mr. Ringgold said he did not know which teen-ager was the driver, but the 14-year-old was a passenger in the back seat. He would not comment further on the details of the case.

Mr. Simms immediately ordered a grand jury probe into the shooting death, saying "there are a substantial number of unresolved questions."

Mr. Ringgold said that no auto theft charges against any of the youths would be filed until the completion of the investigation.

They were picked up at their homes on Saturday, then released to their parents.

Simmont's family criticized the police yesterday as they made funeral arrangements for the eighth-grader at William H. Lemmel Middle School. Ms. Green said she plans to press for an investigation of the shooting.

"If my son shot him [the officer], he'd be in jail right now. I want to see him in jail where he belongs."

Willie Green, the boy's uncle, wondered why the officer was so quick to fire his weapon.

"What kind of a threat do you impose when you run," Simmont's uncle Willie Green asked bitterly yesterday. "I don't care what you do, you don't take a life."

Mr. Green said his nephew had no weapon and police found none at the scene.

Ms. Green said her son, called "Sam" by friends, had planned on being a narcotics police officer.

"He was a happy kid," she said. "He didn't like drugs, and wanted to stop them drugs."

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

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