Cabbie contends he shot at youth in self-defense

February 25, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore cabbie, accused of shooting a teen-ager who allegedly robbed him Monday, fired in self-defense after the youth threatened him with a gun twice, the cabbie's attorney said yesterday.

That statement, attributed to cabbie Harry H. Lewis Jr., contradicts what he told police at the scene after the incident.

The police report states that Mr. Lewis "circled the block" after he allegedly was robbed of $69 by Ian Berry, 16, at 1:35 a.m. Monday on Garrison Boulevard. He found the youth and "shot him as he ran away," the report says, according to police spokesman Sam Ringgold.

But attorney Gilbert Rosenthal said Mr. Lewis gave another version of events during an emotional two-hour meeting in his law office yesterday. Mr. Lewis "did a U-turn" on Garrison Boulevard and confronted the youth, demanding his money back. Mr. Lewis fired only after the youth held a .380-caliber pistol in his face, the attorney said.

"He pointed to the guy and said, 'All I want back is my money,' " said Mr. Rosenthal, who would not allow a reporter to speak directly to the cabbie. "At that point, the robber pulled his gun out again and pointed it at him, and that's when Mr. Lewis fired a shot."

Mr. Lewis is charged with battery and a handgun violation. He was released from City Jail Wednesday after his company, Royal Cab, posted a $10,000 bond.

The Berry youth was listed in fair condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a bullet wound in his back. He is partially paralyzed and will use a wheelchair, although it is unclear whether his injuries are permanent, police said.

The Berry youth will be charged as an adult with assault, robbery and a handgun violation when he is released from the hospital, police spokesman Doug Price said.

Attempts to reach the Berry youth or one of his relatives to comment yesterday were unsuccessful.

Mr. Rosenthal said that Mr. Lewis' statement to homicide detectives on Monday differed from his statement immediately after the shooting. "The story he gave today is the same story he gave to the homicide police. It differs from what he originally told police."

But police officials denied that they were told anything new in a follow-up interview.

"If this [new account] is actually what happened, it will be new information for our investigators," Mr. Ringgold said.

Mr. Lewis said through his attorney yesterday that he had grabbed the nose of the Berry youth's gun during the alleged robbery.

The Berry youth placed his foot on the door of the cab and pushed back, saying, "Don't let me have to kill you," according to the cabbie.

The alleged threat is not mentioned in the police report. That report, according to the police spokesman, states: "The suspect advised the driver, 'Give it up.' He gave him money and advised him to drive away, as he did."

Charging documents filed in District Court state that Mr. Lewis "drove on, circled the block and returned. He saw Mr. Berry walking towards the apartment complex at 2111 Garrison Blvd., pointed his handgun at Mr. Berry and started shooting."

According to Mr. Rosenthal, Mr. Lewis turned back and tried to retrieve his money because he needed it to help pay a $79 cab leasing fee to Royal Cab Co.

Asked whether Mr. Lewis shot the youth in self-defense, Mr. Rosenthal said, "absolutely. . . . He didn't know if the guy was going to fire at him."

Mr. Rosenthal said the Berry youth was shot in the back as he fled the cab and that the cabbie had started shooting his .38-caliber pistol from the driver's seat.

Mr. Rosenthal also said that a man was with the Berry youth at the time of the shooting. That man took the Berry youth's weapon, the attorney said.

The police report confirmed that, Mr. Ringgold said yesterday.

During a bail review hearing on Tuesday, a pretrial services official said Mr. Lewis had no prior criminal record.

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