City police officers accused of murder in suspect's death

April 07, 1994|By Jim Haner and Michael James | Jim Haner and Michael James,Sun Staff Writers

Two undercover Baltimore police officers were indicted yesterday on second-degree murder charges in the killing of a convicted drug dealer during a struggle for the man's gun in February.

Officers Lewis G. Yamin, 28, and Stephen C. Nalewajko Jr., 36, were charged in the shooting death of Anthony Darryl Redd, 31 -- a resident of the city's Northwood section who was on parole on a 1987 manslaughter conviction when he died.

The grand jury's finding marks the first time in at least two decades that city police officers have been accused of maliciously killing a suspect. The few officers ever charged in deaths have been accused of acting negligently.

It also means that the jury ruled out the possibility that the killing was in self-defense, as the officers claim.

Both face departmental hearings to decide whether they will be suspended without pay pending trial.

"They are devastated," said Herbert R. Weiner, attorney for the police union. "We're talking about a paroled killer with a loaded .357 magnum in his waistband in one of the worst drug neighborhoods in the city and two exemplary officers in the Violent Crimes Task Force specially trained to go after violent criminals just like him.

"It's a case that never should have gone to a grand jury in the first place -- a case in which all the forensic evidence available supports exactly what the officers said happened."

State's attorney Stuart O. Simms said last night, "The initial phase [of the investigation] has concluded, and some action has been taken. But I'm not going to confirm or deny anything right now. I'll speak more specifically about it [today.]

The indictments came as good news to the victim's mother, Mildred Redd.

"It's very rare when this happens, that a police officer is charged," she said last night at her Northeast Baltimore home. "Somebody must have believed the witnesses. And I think God had a hand in it. I'm sure he didn't like what he saw."

Although she said she wants justice, Ms. Redd said she hasn't lost faith in police officers.

"I have great respect for police officers. The majority of them are good people who put their lives on the line for the rest of us. But these two men . . . ." She stopped in midsentence, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Yes, my son had problems. But he was my child. I loved him. There was good in him. He didn't deserve to die like this," she said.

Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier refused to comment yesterday.

"This is now a criminal process, and he will reserve comment until that process has run its course," said spokesman Sam Ringgold.

After the Feb. 2 shooting, police said that the two officers were on patrol in an unmarked car near Green Mount Cemetery when they drove through the notorious open-air drug arcade at Hoffman and Holbrook streets and spotted Redd with a handgun in the waistband of his pants.

The two officers ordered Redd to halt, then forced him face down on the ground in the standard arrest position used by Baltimore police. Suddenly, Redd began to struggle and reached for his revolver, police said at the time.

As one of the officers fought Redd for control of the weapon, his partner got up from the ground, pulled out his 9 mm service pistol, pressed it against Redd's face and ordered him to hold still. Seconds later, Redd's revolver went off, and the officer -- fearing his partner had been shot -- fired his service pistol into Redd's face.

As it turned out, both bullets hit Redd.

In the days after the killing, witnesses confirmed the officers' account to homicide detectives, police said. But other witnesses from the neighborhood went on television to contradict them, claiming that one of the officers shot Redd execution-style as he lay pinned to the ground.

On Wednesday, those same witnesses told their story to the grand jury. But, experts from the homicide unit and medical examiner's office have said that the shooting appeared to be justified on the grounds of self-defense, Mr. Weiner said.

The angle of the .357-magnum bullet that hit Redd in the torso was downward through his body, indicating that it was fired as the weapon was being pulled from his waistband. And Redd's hand was covered with gunpowder residue, indicating that his hand was on the gun when it went off.

"We're talking about scientific and fairly reliable evidence that shows these two officers had every reason to fear for their lives," Mr. Weiner said. "There's no way they should be in this position."

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