Juror complains shooting probe was inadequate But grand jury exonerates officer in Jessup case

October 21, 1993|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A member of a Howard grand jury has issued a statement criticizing county police and prosecutors' handling of a case in which a man who was high on PCP was shot by a patrolman after spraying the officer with pepper Mace.

The criticism, issued as an addendum to the grand jury's report, was prepared by Roland Miller, a former police officer who works as a private investigator in Ellicott City.

County police, prosecutors and other jurors dismissed Mr. Miller's contention that the grand jury did not have enough information when it reviewed the incident to determine whether the officer should be indicted on criminal charges.

The patrolman, Officer Patrick McDonald, was not charged in the April 29 shooting of David Scott Shipley.

Mr. Shipley, 24, was not seriously injured. He was charged with theft, assault, battery and resisting arrest and is scheduled to stand trial on Dec. 13.

"Members of the grand jury believed that the investigation done in response to this shooting was severely lacking," Mr. Miller wrote. "Although a great deal of investigation may have been completed, [police] were unable to present this information to the grand jury."

Mr. Miller said he doesn't question Officer McDonald's actions or the grand jury's decision not to indict him. He added that he is not sure the decision would have been different if the jurors had more information.

Sharon Oaks, the grand jury's forewoman, said most members of the panel did not agree with Mr. Miller. She said the information provided by the state's attorney's office was "adequate."

"[The addendum] did not reflect the feelings of the grand jury," said Mrs. Oaks, of Ellicott City.

Howard State's Attorney William Hymes, whose office presents cases to the grand jury, characterized Mr. Miller's report as a "warped opinion" that lacks credibility.

Beyond jury's brief

Mr. Hymes said the demands made by Mr. Miller would take the grand jury beyond its responsibility of determining whether probable cause exists to issue criminal indictments.

"He's trying to make this a jury trial where everything is proven beyond a reasonable doubt," said Mr. Hymes, who noted that Mr. Miller regularly works for defense attorneys. "We had one individual . . . who tried to show that the process was not to his liking."

Mr. Hymes said his office provided more information than usual by bringing in witnesses of the shooting to testify before the panel. Typically, the grand jury is given a summary of an incident read by a police officer.

Sergeant Gary Gardner, spokesman for the Police Department, said in a written statement that the investigation was "handled in a very thorough and professional manner." He noted that the agency's internal affairs unit investigated Officer McDonald and determined that he acted within department guidelines.

The grand jury should have been given maps of the shooting scene, written statements from the witnesses, and police radio transmissions about the incident, Mr. Miller said. The panel was given one diagram, which was not drawn to scale.

The jurors should also have received medical reports on the man's injuries and the amount of drugs in his system, Mr. Miller said. He added that the jurors should been provided with copies of the Police Department's policy on use of force.

Sergeant Gardner said the department gave the state's attorney's office reports, crime scene sketches and photographs present to the grand jury.

Mr. Hymes said much of the information requested by Mr. Miller was provided through the testimony of Officer McDonald and other grand jury witnesses. But Mr. Miller said it would have been better to see written documents than to hear paraphrased or condensed versions.

Mr. Hymes said he offered to get the grand jury more information to make a decision, but the panel -- including Mr. Miller -- did not request it.

A standing ovation

After jurors voted not to indict Officer McDonald, they brought him back into their meeting room to give him a standing ovation.

Mr. Miller countered that the jurors didn't know what to request. He said asking citizens to sit on a grand jury is like sending them to do brain surgery; they can't do it without the proper tools and training.

Mr. Miller also criticized the time frame in which the case was presented to the grand jury. The panel reviewed the incident on June 17, nearly two months after the shooting.

Mrs. Oaks also raised this issue in the panel's final report. "Forty-eight days seemed like a long time for this officer to have to wait for his case to be presented," she said. "We would suggest that cases of this nature be given priority."

But Mr. Hymes said the case was presented as soon as the investigation was done and witnesses were scheduled to testify. He added that the grand jury met only three times between the shooting and the presentation.

The case was one of 275 reviewed by the grand jury, which issued 272 indictments.

In the incident, Officer McDonald was called to Columbia Junction in Jessup for a complaint about a man acting strangely at a flower shop at the shopping center.

According to police, Mr. Shipley ran away when Officer McDonald examined the truck he was operating to determine whether it was stolen. The officer chased Mr. Shipley, stopping him behind the shopping center.

Mr. Shipley struggled with Officer McDonald, grabbed his Mace and sprayed him with it, according to police. Officer McDonald fired the shots at Mr. Shipley as the man allegedly came toward him with the Mace.

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