Officer's lawyer wants jurors to visit scene of fatal shooting

April 21, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A lawyer representing a Baltimore police officer who fatally shot a 14-year-old boy in the back is asking for grand jurors to visit the scene of the shooting -- and he wants them to go in the middle of the night.

"In order to understand the officer's position, you have to be in his shoes. The grand jury needs to get an idea what it's like to chase someone in the dark, near the woods," said Henry L. Belsky, a Fraternal Order of Police lawyer representing Officer Edward T. Gorwell II.

Mr. Belsky called a news conference yesterday and, through the media, is asking the grand jury to go to the 900 block of Ellicott Driveway at the edge of Gwynns Falls Park, at 1 a.m. Simmont Donta Thomas was shot to death at this location at 1 a.m. on Saturday. He was one of four youths who bailed out of a stolen car and were being chased by the officer.

Mr. Belsky called on the grand jury to visit the shooting scene as quickly as possible to get a feel for the situation the officer confronted.

Officer Gorwell contends that he shot the youth after he heard someone fire a gunshot while he was chasing the boy toward nearby woods.

However, police have found no evidence or witnesses to suggest such a gunshot was fired.

Patricia Jessamy, deputy state's attorney for Baltimore City, said her office has not received any formal request to convene the grand jury hearing at the shooting scene.

"It's very unorthodox. The request was not made directly to this office or to the grand jury," Ms. Jessamy said. "Unless some formalized request is made to us or the grand jury, I'm going to decline to respond."

The grand jury will likely begin hearing testimony tomorrow, Ms. Jessamy said. Mr. Belsky said that Officer Gorwell would be present to be interviewed by the grand jury, if it visits the shooting scene.

Mr. Belsky also criticized Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for making public remarks about the case. "He should know better than to make an accusation before a full investigation is done," Mr. Belsky said.

On the day of the shooting, the mayor told a TV station that "Based on the information he had at the time, he didn't think the boy needed to die," according to Clint Coleman, the mayor's press secretary.

Mr. Coleman said the shooting "raised enough questions in the mayor's mind" that it was clear the case should be looked at by a grand jury.

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