A Harford Circuit Court jury found Port Deposit's police chief innocent of a reckless endangerment charge stemming from a November 1992 incident in which he fired three shots at a fleeing suspect's vehicle during an 18-mile chase.
Evidence in the two-day trial, which ended late Thursday, showed that Chief Samuel Mark Maranto was off duty and driving his own pickup truck at the time of the chase between Darlington and Benson.
The jury had to decide whether Chief Maranto, who was dubbed a "cowboy" by Harford State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly, was acting unreasonably when he tried to shoot the right rear tire of the suspect's Chevrolet Suburban to make an arrest.
Chief Maranto, 35, who has been police chief in the Cecil County town for four years, has no law enforcement powers in Harford. He was on active duty while awaiting trial.
William B. Calvert, who represented Chief Maranto, told the jury that his client cannot stop being a police officer when he is off duty. He said his client saw a hit-and-run accident Nov. 15 along Arena Road outside Harvey's Jr. bar and restaurant, and took off after the driver.
Three shots struck the Suburban, one near its gas cap, Mr. Cassilly said. He told the jury: "You must help make a policy decision for the county: It is not acceptable for any citizen to go off on a high-speed pursuit and fire into another vehicle."
But Mr. Calvert focused the jury's attention on why Mr. Cassilly had prosecuted his client but not the suspect in the hit-and-run accident.
Pierre Petetit was charged with driving under the influence, leaving the scene of an accident and other traffic violations. He later received probation before judgment on the DUI charge. The traffic charges were dropped.