Parents say race a factor in arrest

January 11, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

Albert and Mary Rice's nightmare began at 1:30 p.m. last Wednesday, when the principal of Randallstown High School called them at work and told them police had just arrested their 16-year-old son, Tony.

The couple, who both work at the Social Security Administration, hurried home -- where they found police waiting for them. Before they knew it, they said, police had confined them to one room of their house while they waited for a search warrant.

All the while, they said, they didn't know where their son was or what was happening to him.

"You can just imagine the harrowing experience they were going through," said Michael Freedman, their attorney.

It turned out that Tony was a prime suspect in the shooting and robbery of the manager of the Owings Mills Mall restaurant where he worked part time. He was held for more than 11 hours; police released him after they verified his account -- that he was driving co-workers home at the time.

Mr. and Mrs. Rice held a news conference yesterday in their lawyer's Owings Mills office to protest the way they said they and their son were treated last week in the wake of the holdup at the American Cafe.

The Rices expressed anger over the fact that their son's name was released to the media, even though he was never charged with a crime. Mr. Rice said he thinks race played a part.

"My wife and I strongly believe that because he was a black, teen-age male, he was being pinpointed," said Albert Rice. "There was no doubt in anybody's mind that he did it. . . . There was no thorough investigation. . . . We are livid because of that."

Mr. Freedman said yesterday that Tony did not appear at the news conference because he's uncomfortable with the attention and because, "Technically, he's still a suspect" and it would be unwise to make public comments.

Tony, a varsity player on the Randallstown High football team, was arrested at school by five police officers, who handcuffed him and made him wear ankle chains.

Taken to Towson to be questioned, he was not allowed to call home until about 10:30 p.m., despite asking repeatedly for permission to call, his parents said.

"He was chained to a bar on the wall, and his feet were chained," Mary Rice said. "And he was a frightened kid."

About the same time robbery detectives were interviewing him, a county police spokesman told reporters that the youth had been charged with attempted murder in the wounding of John Matthew Newton, 25, the night supervisor.

As it turns out, police never did charge him with a crime because his alibi checked out. But they did type up charging documents, based on Mr. Newton's identification of Tony as the person who shot him, police said.

After police took him in, Tony told police he had left work Tuesday night at 9:30, when the American Cafe restaurant closed. He told them he drove three co-workers home, then went home himself.

Police interviewed the three co-workers, who verified his account. They released Tony about 1 a.m. Thursday.

Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman, said yesterday that he could not go into detail about the case because the Rices are threatening to sue the county.

He did say that police have been

unable to re-interview Mr. Newton, who remains in serious but stable condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a bullet wound on the head.

Detectives have been unable to talk to Mr. Newton since Wednesday morning, when the night supervisor was found lying in a pool of blood. He was shot once in the head sometime after the restaurant closed Tuesday night and lay on the floor of a back room for almost 12 hours.

Mr. Newton's doctor said last week that the night supervisor has suffered no serious brain damage and that his memory is unimpaired by the shooting.

No one has been able to explain why Mr. Newton named Tony Rice as his assailant.

Mrs. Rice said Mr. Newton might have made a mistake because the supervisor had only been at the restaurant a few days, and her son's name may have stood out because Tony had tried to make friends with him.

"My son was the main employee who tried to befriend him, so he was very familiar with him," she said.

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