Man gets life term plus 35 years in shooting of county K-9 officer

May 26, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

An Essex roofer received a life sentence plus 35 years yesterday in the shooting of Baltimore County K-9 Officer James E. Beck on Halloween.

The officer had stopped a pickup truck described in a police broadcast as being involved in an armed robbery.

Mark Phillip French, 29, of the 300 block of George Ave., denies he shot the officer, who suffered permanent injuries, including the loss of most of his hearing.

French, convicted last month, told Circuit Judge James T. Smith Jr., "I pray for the victim and his family and I pray for my family. Besides that, I don't know what to say."

Assistant State's Attorney James O. Gentry Jr. said French was "a dangerous, aggressive, unrepentant person who should never walk outside of prison again."

The prosecutor asked for life plus 60 years on the four counts of attempted murder, armed robbery of an Essex man and use of a handgun in both crimes.

"We should be protected as a community against him," Mr. Gentry said.

He noted French's role as a leader in the near-escape of 15 inmates April 28 from the county Detention Center. French and another inmate had almost removed a section of a wall before being detected. Attempted escape charges have been filed against him.

Before French's conviction, his former girlfriend, Heather Lynn Kendall, 17, of Dundalk, pleaded guilty to armed robbery and received a five-year sentence. She admitted posing as a prostitute on Pulaski Highway early Oct. 31 and robbing a man who gave her a ride. French followed in a pickup and assisted in the robbery.

Officer Beck, a 19-year police veteran, testified at French's trial that he heard the police broadcast of the robbery and pulled over the pickup. As he walked toward it, the driver fired several times, hitting him in the chest and stomach. He was in the hospital more than two months.

The jury took 45 minutes to convict French, who didn't testify.

The courtroom was full of police officers yesterday. French wept as his sister begged for mercy. Assistant Public Defender John Henderson told the judge that French's parents needed counseling after their son's arrest. French has a good family background, Mr. Henderson said, but had a learning disability that required a psychologist's care and led him to quit school in the ninth grade at age 16 and to abuse alcohol and drugs.

"The problem your attorney has is that as far as you are concerned there are no mitigating circumstances," Judge Smith said.

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