4 shootings by officer in 3 years on force

March 15, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

The 23-year-old Baltimore police officer who shot and killed a man yesterday during a drug arrest has shot three other people in his three-year police career.

Officer Arthur Lee Edmondson Jr. was cleared of any wrongdoing in the previous shootings -- none of which was fatal -- and was described by his lawyer yesterday as "a fine police officer who has come face-to-face with how bad the streets of Baltimore really are."

In every shooting -- including yesterday's, in which he shot Maurice Smith, 36, in the 400 block of E. 21st St. -- Officer Edmondson has said he confronted suspects who either lunged toward or grabbed him.

"As a human being, he's been in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a police officer who's trying to protect us, he's been in the right place at the right time," said his lawyer, Henry L. Belsky, who represents the city Fraternal Order of Police lodge.

An official of the NAACP said that an officer with four shootings underscores the need for tighter, more independent investigations of police shootings.

"Unfortunately, we have a situation where the police investigate themselves," said NAACP Executive Director George Buntin. "We believe there should be some type of civilian review board.

"We live in a violent society. There are too many guns out here, and police officers do have to protect themselves. But I would hope that when the department has an officer involved in several shootings, they will take a particularly close look to ensure that this particular officer is not gun-happy."

Police said Officer Edmondson will be placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of an investigation by homicide detectives. That is standard departmental procedure when an officer shoots someone.

So far this year, six people have been wounded by city police officers. Two of those people died, police statistics show.

Last year, police reported 29 police-involved shootings (nine fatal); in 1992, 30 incidents (10 fatal); and in 1991, 21 incidents (five fatal). Agent Doug Price, who supplied the figures, stressed that police are often attacked -- last year, 1,375 assaults on police were reported, he said.

The latest shooting occurred about 2:20 a.m. on a dark portion of 21st Street, near an alley. Officer Edmondson said he was wrestling Mr. Smith for control of his police-issued 9 mm Glock handgun when it discharged, police said.

The bullet hit Mr. Smith in the abdomen and he later died at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Police described Mr. Smith as a suspected drug dealer who had dropped about a dozen capsules of cocaine during the struggle with Officer Edmondson.

The officer had gone to Barclay and 21st streets to investigate a report that a man was selling drugs, police said. When the officer approached a group of men on the street, Mr. Smith ran away, police said.

Officer Edmondson, a Northern District officer, chased him for about a block before grabbing him near the alley, police said.

The officer gave an account of the shooting to fellow officers who arrived at the scene. But he has since refused to make a more detailed statement to homicide detectives until he can speak with his attorney.

According to police accounts, Officer Edmondson has been involved in these other shootings, all of which were ruled justifiable:

* On Feb. 20, he fired at William H. Boatwright, 32, while investigating a domestic disturbance in the 400 block of E. Federal St. Mr. Boatwright suffered a graze wound to the left forearm after he allegedly pushed the officer down a flight of steps. Police charged Mr. Boatwright with assaulting a police officer.

* On March 15, 1993, Officer Edmondson was moonlighting as a security guard at Reisterstown Road Plaza when he shot Dorian Flanagan, 18, in the leg.

The officer said he heard gunshots coming from the south end of the mall and later found Mr. Flanagan crouched behind a wall with a .22-caliber handgun. When the man didn't drop his weapon as ordered, and turned toward Officer Edmondson, he was shot.

Mr. Flanagan was charged with handgun violations, reckless endangerment and assault with a handgun.

* On Aug. 12, 1992, he shot a robbery suspect, Christopher Roosevelt Woolard, 30, in the right leg in the 1500 block of N. Broadway.

Police said Officer Edmondson was sitting in his patrol car when a passerby reported a robbery. He confronted Mr. Woolard and ordered him to lie on the ground. The man did so, but then got up and tried to wrest the officer's gun from him, according to Officer Edmondson's account. During the struggle, the officer's gun fired three times, with one shot hitting Mr. Woolard.

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