Gun expert defends Gorwell's actions Jury told about concealed weapons

August 04, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

From a witness stand in a Baltimore courtroom, Emanuel Kapelsohn casually said yesterday that he was armed with eight guns.

Mr. Kapelsohn, a key defense witness appearing on the final day of testimony in Police Officer Edward T. Gorwell II's manslaughter trial, then went for his weapons.

First, he pulled a Glock 17 9 mm from his belt. Next, he removed his suit jacket and whipped out a small .25-caliber semiautomatic from a strap inside his wrist. Then came a .38 revolver from an ankle holster, a .22 Derringer from a "wallet holster," and another .25 from an elbow strap.

"Let's see," the witness said, as if he couldn't immediately recall where he'd stashed the rest of his arsenal. "What else do I have?"

Mr. Kapelsohn, a police training consultant and firearms expert, was loaded down with unloaded guns to show how easily weapons can be concealed. Yesterday's demonstration seemed designed to support Officer Gorwell's contention that he believed he was returning gunfire when he fatally shot a 14-year-old suspected car thief in the back.

Four other teen-agers who bailed out of the stolen car had testified that they didn't see any guns on one another.

Mr. Kapelsohn, a member of the board of directors of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, gave his firm approval to Officer Gorwell's actions surrounding the April 17 shooting that killed Simmont Donta Thomas near a wooded area at the edge of West Baltimore's Gwynns Falls Park.

He said the officer made the best move available to him after hearing what he perceived to be a gunshot.

"It was reasonable for him to return fire and to run," he said.

Before he left the stand, Mr. Kapelsohn produced two more guns and a knife -- he said he ran out of small guns. He sat down and then said, "Oh, hey, I forgot one." He found a small .22 he had stashed behind his neck.

At times -- such as when he used a cardboard prop to show that a tree affords cover only if an assailant is directly on the other side -- Mr. Kapelsohn's testimony seemed to be statements of the obvious dressed up in police jargon. At other times -- such as when he gave a mock 9 mm handgun to a sheriff's deputy and demonstrated how tough it is for an officer to react quickly enough to a gun-wielding suspect -- his testimony provided insight into the stresses and dangers facing police officers.

Attempting to shoot holes in Mr. Kapelsohn's testimony, Prosecutor Timothy J. Doory asked: "How about finding out you just shot an innocent man in the back? Would that cause stress?"

Mr. Doory also made sure the jury knew Mr. Kapelsohn was being paid by the defense and was basing his conclusions strictly on Officer Gorwell's version of events.

Closing arguments in the trial are set for tomorrow.

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