Man shot to death by officer

May 08, 1994|By Anne Haddad and Erik Nelson | Anne Haddad and Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writers

A city police officer fatally shot an unarmed man in a dark alley off Tivoly Avenue after a brief chase Friday night, prompting complaints from the man's family that the officer used excessive force.

City police spokesman Sam Ringgold said yesterday that Officer Shean D. Camper chased Jerrod Dwayne Wagstaff, 25, into the alley because "he was the one that ran" when police responding to a call about gunshots fired in the area found a crowd in the 2700 block of Tivoly Ave., off Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore.

Mr. Ringgold said Officer Camper shot Mr. Wagstaff during a scuffle while trying to arrest him.

"During that scuffle, the officer withdrew his weapon [from his holster] and fired one shot," Mr. Ringgold said.

Mr. Ringgold said that police found a package of suspected cocaine on Mr. Wagstaff, but that he was unarmed. Police found no weapon in the area and do not know who fired the gunshots that prompted residents to call them, Mr. Ringgold said.

Rebecca Wagstaff, Mr. Wagstaff's grandmother, said yesterday, "They're calling him a suspect. A suspect of what?

"He had $4. He was going to the grocery store to get two bags of potato chips and a soda," she said. "He didn't have anything [cocaine] on him.

"There was no scuffle," Ms. Wagstaff said. "[Police] always come up with that stuff. It's a bunch of rotten cops around here, and God knows it is."

Mr. Ringgold said police went to Tivoly Avenue about 10:20 p.m. Friday after receiving several calls to 911 from people who reported hearing gunshots. The crowd dispersed when the officers arrived, he said.

"One of the individuals ran, and an officer pursued him on foot," Mr. Ringgold said. A brief chase led the two men to the alley, he said.

Mr. Ringgold said he had no details on the scuffle, but, "The officer feared for his safety.

"A backup officer was heading into the alley, but he didn't witness the shooting," Mr. Ringgold said.

He said Mr. Wagstaff was shot in the chest. Mr. Wagstaff's family said he also was shot in the leg.

Mr. Wagstaff was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he died at 5:30 a.m. yesterday.

His grandmother said he died on an operating table during his second surgery.

Mr. Wagstaff's relatives disputed most of the police report. They said they believe Mr. Wagstaff had no drugs and only ran away because all the young people in the neighborhood fear police.

Ms. Wagstaff said she was in her house when she heard the gunfire that attracted police, and her grandson was sitting on the front porch. Diane Flood, Mr. Wagstaff's mother, also heard the shots and went to the porch to ask him what was happening, Ms. Wagstaff said.

About 20 minutes later, Ms. Wagstaff said, police arrived.

"He [her grandson] hadn't been gone five minutes," she said, when her husband came in the house and said their grandson had been shot.

Mr. Wagstaff's aunt, Anastasia Williams of Belair Road, said her nephew "was not a goody-two-shoes," but police had no reason to shoot him.

"They do more harm than good around here," she said. "There are some people in this neighborhood who need to be [arrested], but the ones who need to be, they're not pulling them up."

A neighbor, Candi Slater, said she heard several shots about 10 p.m. that seemed to be around The Alameda and 28th Street nearby. She said she and neighbors often hear people "testing their guns."

Ms. Slater said that about 15 to 20 minutes after those shots, she heard two more gunshots, and then heard a man say, "Please help."

"I heard the officer say, 'Stay down.' He [Mr. Wagstaff] said, 'Get my mother.' The officer said 'Stay down,' " Ms. Slater said.

She said she went into the alley and saw Mr. Wagstaff bleeding, and his grandmother and mother trying to get to him. She said his mother, Ms. Flood, was trying to get to him to administer first aid, but police were holding her back.

Mr. Wagstaff lived in the house with his mother, grandparents and his great-grandfather. He had a son, Brian.

Ms. Flood declined to be interviewed.

Ms. Wagstaff said her grandson was on parole.

Baltimore Circuit Court records show that Mr. Wagstaff pleaded guilty to battery in 1991 and received a six-month prison sentence. In 1992, he was sentenced to a three-year prison term that began in February 1992 on a drug charge.

Officer Camper, 23, has been routinely assigned to administrative duties while homicide detectives investigate the shooting, Mr. Ringgold said. Their findings will go to the state's attorney's office, he said.

Officer Camper has been on the police force since March 1991. He was a Northeastern District officer working an overtime foot patrol in the area, which is known for drug activities.

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