Death of man in custody of police raises questions

June 20, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert and C. Fraser Smith | Patrick Gilbert and C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writers

Prince George's County police were seeking answers to several questions yesterday in the fatal shooting Friday by police of the son of a Virginia judge while the 24-year-old man sat, handcuffed, in a police cruiser.

Police said the victim also had been wearing a seat belt in the cruiser, but nevertheless managed to point a gun at two officers, who said they shot him after he refused an order to drop the gun.

Archie Manuel Elliott II, 24, of Forestville, was shot by two officers, one from the District Heights town police department and one from Prince George's county police.

Mr. Elliott had been taken into custody by the District Heights officer after being stopped as a suspected drunken driver in a quiet residential neighborhood in District Heights about three miles from the District of Columbia line.

Mr. Elliott's father is Portsmouth (Va.) General District Court Judge Archie Manuel Elliott Jr. His mother also lives in Forestville.

"We are investigating the events that led up to the victim's arrest, including why he wasn't thoroughly searched before being placed under arrest," said Capt. Jimmy White, Prince George's County police spokesman.

He said the investigation is being handled by the Prince George's County police homicide division, normal procedure even when a shooting occurs in a town jurisdiction.

Captain White said District Heights Officer Jason Levitt spotted a beige Buick driven by the shooting victim weaving in traffic about 5 p.m. Friday. He pulled the car over near Marbury Drive and Kipling Parkway. The driver failed several sobriety tests Officer Levitt gave him, Captain White said.

The officer then arrested the driver, handcuffed his hands behind his back, put him in the right, front seat of the District Heights police cruiser and put a seat belt on him.

At the same time, Prince George's police Officer Wayne Cheney drove up, responding to a call for assistance.

As the two officers conferred near the District Heights police car, Captain White said Officer Levitt reported noticing movement by the suspect. Officer Levitt looked into the window and saw the suspect with his hands twisted to one side pointing a black revolver at the officers.

Officer Levitt yelled "gun," Captain White said. The two officers drew their pistols, ordering the suspect once to drop his gun. The man continued to point the gun at the officers.

Each officer fired several rounds, Captain White said, hitting the suspect several times in the upper torso. Mr. Elliott was pronounced dead at Prince George's Hospital Center.

Captain White said police took a black .22-caliber revolver from the front seat of the District Heights police car. Based on preliminary investigation, Captain White, said, "We believe that Mr. Elliott had the gun secreted on his person."

Captain White said a witness told investigators that the District Heights officer lightly patted the suspect front and back. Standard county police procedure, Captain White said, would be to search a suspect for weapons or narcotics before putting the suspect into a car.

"The actions of the District Heights officer before our officer arrived is of great concern to us."

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