Boy, 14, shot by city police officer

March 11, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin and Gregory P. Kane | David Michael Ettlin and Gregory P. Kane,Sun Staff Writers

A 14-year-old boy was shot and critically wounded by a police officer yesterday after pointing a BB gun at a man on a shopping center parking lot in West Baltimore, authorities said.

According to police, two officers on patrol saw the youth pointing the gun at the man about 4:30 p.m. at the Walbrook Junction shopping center. Police said they told the youth to drop the gun, but instead he turned toward the officers with the weapon in his hand.

The youth, identified as Charlie William Maultsby of the 3500 block of Foxcliff Court in Randallstown, was shot once in the chest. His condition was upgraded from critical to serious and stable early today after surgery late last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The gun was a Crossman air pistol that looked like a large-caliber handgun that the youth had carried in a shoulder holster, said Agent Doug Price, a Police Department spokesman.

Agent Price said detectives were interviewing witnesses last night -- including the man involved in the parking lot confrontation.

According to the police spokesman, the man complained that the youth had fired the pistol at his 9-year-old daughter about 4 p.m. near where the youth was shot by police. He said he went to the shopping center looking for the youth and became involved in a fight with him there.

Police said the youth had pulled the weapon from his holster when Southwestern District Officers Ernest Coppage and Juan Oliver arrived.

Agent Price said Officer Coppage, 27, who has been on the force four years, ordered the youth to drop the gun, then fired three shots when the youth turned toward him with weapon in hand.

Officer Coppage was put on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation, the spokesman said.

An investigator said the officers warned the youth repeatedly to drop the gun.

A police investigator said the youth "was nearly 6 feet tall and weighed close to 200 pounds."

The Rev. Aaron S. Powell, 78, said he heard the three shots while he was in a Rite Aid store in the shopping center.

"I heard some children laughing," Mr. Powell said. "I told them, 'It's not funny. The same way the police shot that boy they could shoot you, because they're afraid.' "

Mr. Powell said police let the youth lie in the parking lot for half an hour and would not let him near the boy to say a prayer.

"I went to the . . . police to ask to pray over him," Mr. Powell said. "They told me I could pray at the back of the ambulance."

A spokesman for the city Fire Department said it received the call 4:30 p.m. and that an ambulance from a station in the 4300 block of Park Heights Ave. arrived on the scene in eight minutes.

At the scene, the medics set up IV techniques, the spokesman said.

"All that takes time, and the medics could not leave the scene until Shock Trauma told them to transport," he said.

The ambulance, according to fire department records, left the scene at 4:58 p.m. and arrived at Shock Trauma at 5:07 p.m.

Agent Price said the air pistol was "a big gun," closely resembling a Colt Python, and that the officer believed he was in "imminent danger."

Agent Price said all three bullets had been accounted for. He said one was recovered inside a nearby house after the round penetrated a second-floor bedroom window and that the third dented a nearby parked car.

The slugs were to be examined by the crime lab to verify that they were fired by Officer Coppage's gun.

The police spokesman said he was unable to could not provide more information about the man's complaint, including where the incident was supposed to have taken place and whether the girl was hurt.

Neighbors of the youth in the Foxhall Village Apartments off Liberty Road said they did not know him and that they thought he was part of a family that had moved in recently.

But one neighbor, who asked not to be named, said a youth there was seen carrying a gun. "He uses it in the hallway sometimes -- the kids are scared of him. He's been in the hallway with it and showed it to them."

Last year, city officers fatally shot nine crime suspects and wounded 15 others. Two of those killed were teen-agers, and both incidents resulted in grand jury investigations.

The jury declined to indict one officer who fatally shot a 15-year-old after the boy allegedly tried to run him down in a stolen car.

In the other case, Officer Edward T. Gorwell II was charged with manslaughter and went on trial for killing 14-year-old Simmont Thomas last April as the teen-ager fled with a group of unarmed boys from a stolen car. The youth was shot in the back.

The case ended in a mistrial, however, after a juror was disqualified for failing to appear for deliberations.

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