No prosecution for two officers in man's death

April 07, 1994|By From Staff Reports

Two undercover Baltimore police officers who were indicted yesterday for second-degree murder of a convicted drug dealer will not be prosecuted, Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms announced today.

Although the grand jury yesterday instructed prosecutors to prepare second-degree murder charges for both officers, the head of the grand jury did an about-face today and notified the state's attorney's office that it recommended no action be taken, Mr. Simms said.

Mr. Simms said that after a grand jury heard five days of testimony from six civilian witnesses, forensic experts and investigating officers he was notified this morning at 9:45 that the grand jury had taken no action.

Yesterday, after the evidenciary phase of the grand jury investigation ended, the grand jury was given options for its consideration, which included first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter, Mr. Simms said. At the end of the panel's session yesterday, prosecutors had been instructed to prepare an indictment for second-degree murder for both officers.

Mr. Simms said he contacted lawyers for both officers to tell them the likelihood of a charge and to arrange for possible surrender of the officers. Mr. Simms, who in announcing his decision shortly before noon today, noted the conflicting testimony in the case and said he was sending the results of the investigation to the city police commissioner for further review.

Mr. Simms said the case illustrates the need for "additional mechanisms" for the review of police-related shootings to ensure confidence between the police department and the public.

He also said that he thought it was important for a "neutral body" to have reviewed the case.

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

The grand jury's original action 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.

The original action also apparently means that the jury discounted self-defense, as the officers contend.

"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," said Herbert R. Weiner, attorney for the police union.

Mildred Redd, the victim's mother continued to blame the officers.

"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 9mm 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, contending that one of the officers shot Redd execution-style as he lay pinned to the ground.

Yesterday, 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.

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