Officer shoots driver fatally after chase Gun fired accidentally, state police say

April 26, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

A state trooper's gunshot -- which authorities said was accidental -- killed a motorist who had been stopped in Towson after a high-speed chase in one of two fatal encounters between police officers and civilians yesterday in Baltimore County.

In the other incident, a Baltimore County officer shot and killed a man brandishing a gun during a domestic argument in Edgemere, police said.

The motorist -- 34-year-old Antonio Carlos Towns, of the 5200 block of Kenilworth Ave., Towson -- was stopped on Charles Street just south of the Baltimore Beltway after two state troopers had pursued his red 1987 Corvette at speeds up to 81 mph yesterday morning, police said.

The police alleged that Mr. Towns was resisting arrest by "tensing up" his body when Trooper Chad P. Hymel's gun inadvertently went off, fatally wounding Mr. Towns in the chest.

The other officer, Trooper Nicholas J. Over Jr., had begun pursuing Mr. Towns on Interstate 83 near Mount Carmel Road, said Cpl. J. Scott McCauley, a state police spokesman. But Trooper Over lost the Corvette a few miles south around Belfast Road when Mr. Towns slowed to the shoulder, then gunned the car and took off, Corporal McCauley said.

Trooper Over spotted the Corvette a few minutes later on Seminary Avenue in Towson, radioed for help and began a three-minute chase, Corporal McCauley said.

Troopers Over and Hymel "boxed in" Mr. Towns' car in the left southbound lane of Charles Street, just below the Beltway, Corporal McCauley said. A Baltimore County police officer arrived on the scene in time to witness the shooting, he said.

The two troopers, with guns drawn, got out of their cars, as did Mr. Towns, Corporal McCauley said. As the troopers tried to get Mr. Towns down on the ground to take him into custody, he resisted by "tensing up" his body, but did not strike or threaten either trooper, Corporal McCauley said.

That is when Trooper Hymel's gun discharged, the spokesman said. Mr. Towns was pronounced dead at the scene at 10:40 a.m.

Mr. Towns, who lived a few blocks from where he was killed, had no criminal record and no weapons, drugs or alcohol were found in his car, Corporal McCauley said. He said he could provide no other details on Mr. Towns' background.

A woman reached at Mr. Towns' home late yesterday afternoon declined to provide any information. The woman, who identified herself only as Mr. Towns' sister-in-law, said only, "Right now, we don't want too much publicity on this. We've been unable to reach his mother."

Corporal McCauley said the "initial finding" of investigators was that the shooting was "purely accidental." But he stressed that the state police criminal investigation and internal affairs divisions would continue to investigate.

In the meantime, Trooper Hymel, 27, a five-year veteran of the force, was placed on routine administrative leave, Corporal McCauley said.

Trooper Over, 25, also a five-year veteran, will remain on active police duty, Corporal McCauley said.

Mr. Towns' body was taken to the state medical examiner's office for an autopsy, Corporal McCauley said.

Bystanders who saw the chase described it as movie-like.

"It was like Burt Reynolds. I've never seen anybody drive like that," said Billy Irvin, 25, who said he saw part of the chase along Bellona Avenue and followed the sirens and helicopters to the scene of the shooting.

"He went by at 75 or 80 on two wheels," said Fred Kail, 56, who told of seeing part of the chase from his home near Bellona Avenue.

The fatal shooting by the Baltimore County officer occurred some eight hours earlier -- around 2:20 a.m.

Responding to a complaint of a domestic assault, Officer Charles Volz arrived at a home in the 2400 block of Cooper Ave. in the Edgemere section of eastern Baltimore County to find a man waving a .32-caliber handgun, police said.

The man first threatened to kill himself and then pointed the gun at Officer Volz, who shot him once in the chest, police said.

The man, Marc Anthony Leonard, 31, died two hours later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

His wife, Marnie Card Leonard, 24, was admitted to Francis Scott Key Medical Center with a broken jaw and other injuries that police said were inflicted by her husband.

Officer Volz, 36, is a 14-year veteran of the county police force.

He will be on routine leave pending completion of the department's investigation, said police spokesman E. Jay Miller.

The Edgemere incident was the second fatal shooting involving a Baltimore County police officer this year. In January, an armed woman was shot and killed by a Baltimore County policeman investigating a couple arguing in a vehicle in Woodlawn.

In January, a tactical officer on the state police force shot and killed a 32-year-old man armed with a revolver inside his Bel Air town house to end a three-hour standoff.

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