Heard only 1 shot, neighbors tell court BALTIMORE CITY

July 29, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

Prosecutors yesterday presented evidence intended to discredit Baltimore police Officer Edward T. Gorwell II's contention that he believed he was returning fire when he shot and killed a 14-year-old suspected car thief in Gwynns Falls Park.

In the first day of testimony in the 24-year-old officer's manslaughter trial in Baltimore Circuit Court, two men and a woman who live near the shooting scene told the jury they heard only one gunshot in the moments leading to Simmont Donta Thomas' death.

Also, prosecutors produced a tape of police radio calls involving the incident -- a tape that shows Officer Gorwell did not tell dispatchers or other police units that he had been fired upon.

The officer's lawyer responded by suggesting that the residents might not have heard other shots if they came from smaller weapons or from farther away. Also, defense lawyer Henry L. Belsky suggested to witnesses that the officer could have attempted to call in a report of shots fired, but that the call could have been overridden by other signals.

The first of three area residents to testify yesterday said he had been in bed, watching television, when he heard an unintelligible shout, followed immediately by a gunshot.

"Now, this is very important. How many shots did you hear?" prosecutor Timothy J. Doory asked witness Michael McDuffie.

"I only heard one," Mr. McDuffie replied.

Mr. McDuffie said he waited a couple of minutes before venturing to his front door for a look outside. He then noticed what appeared to be a body lying on a grassy knoll.

Frederick and Helen Chase then testified that they had been in their home near the park when they heard a single gunshot.

A fourth person who had been expected to say he heard only one shot was not allowed to testify because he violated an order that witnesses in the trial not watch other witnesses testify.

Simmont "Sam" Thomas was killed April 17, shot once in the back while fleeing from a stolen car in a densely wooded area at the edge of Gwynns Falls Park in West Baltimore. Homicide Detective Berry Grant testified yesterday that no gun was found on the slain youth or the others who fled the stolen car and were apprehended the next day.

Tests showed that the Thomas youth had not fired a gun, Detective Grant said.

Mr. Belsky suggested that police should have conducted tests on the other suspects because a positive result could have exonerated his client.

Detective Grant said the tests are normally reliable only if conducted within two hours of a gun's firing.

Myra and Dennis Green, the slain youth's mother and stepfather, have said the officer should be on trial for murder. They criticized yesterday the prosecution's theory that their son was killed by an errant warning shot fired by Officer Gorwell. They charged prosecutors with conspiring with the defense in the case to ensure that the officer is not severely punished for the shooting.

Mr. Doory declined to comment on the allegation.

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