City police investigate arrest that left man in coma with severe head injury

June 22, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

A 31-year-old South Baltimore man remained in critical and unstable condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center last night after suffering a head injury while being arrested by two city police officers.

The incident occurred about 12:30 a.m. Sunday in the 200 block of S. Fulton Ave. as the officers arrested George T. Hite on charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest. Because of the severity of Mr. Hite's injury, a city homicide detective is investigating the incident.

Shock Trauma officials declined to discuss details of Mr. Hite's injuries last night, but members of his family said he was in a coma and had little chance of recovering.

The investigator is sifting through conflicting accounts of how Mr. Hite was injured, said Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman.

The spokesman said the two officers, Jae Yim, 25, and Stanley Reaves, 22, told the investigator that Mr. Hite slipped and fell, hitting his head on a sidewalk, while they were trying to handcuff him in front of his rowhouse. But two witnesses told the investigator that an officer "played a role in knocking him to the ground," Mr. Ringgold added.

The officers have not been relieved of their usual duties while the investigation continues, said Mr. Ringgold. Officer Yim joined the force in November 1993, and Officer Reaves joined the force in February 1993.

The Internal Affairs Division has not started a probe to determine if the officers broke departmental rules. The state's attorney's office has been notified about the incident and could review the findings of the homicide detective to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

Mr. Hite's relatives say he was a victim of police brutality. They say they have collected names of 12 people who say they witnessed the incident.

Last night, The Sun reached three of the people on the list, and all said they saw one officer kick Mr. Hite's legs out from under him while both of his hands were cuffed behind his back.

One witness, Howard Chaplinski, 22, said he saw the incident from his kitchen window. He spoke to the investigator for several hours.

"It looked like the officer purposely did it," he said. "That's the way I saw it."

The officers told the investigator that Mr. Hite slipped while resisting their attempt to handcuff him. They said that they had managed only to cuff one of his wrists when he slipped and fell, Mr. Ringgold said.

Mr. Ringgold gave the following account of incident:

Officer Yim was patrolling the 200 block of S. Fulton Ave. when a man on a bicycle yelled out a warning to nearby drug dealers. The officer stopped his patrol car and questioned the man. Mr. Hite cursed the officer from the steps of his house, where he was sitting and drinking a beer. The officer told Mr. Hite to quiet down, and when he didn't, Officer Kim moved in to arrest him, backed up by Officer Reaves.

After Mr. Hite fell, he was placed in a police wagon and taken to the Southern District, where he complained to the desk sergeant of a pain in his right eye. An ambulance was called, and it took him to Harbor Hospital Center. He was later transferred to Shock Trauma.

The man on the bicycle was not arrested, Mr. Ringgold said.

"No one who gets locked up for disorderly conduct should end up in Shock Trauma," said Mary Wheaton, 42, Mr. Hite's sister. "People have come out of the woodwork to tell us what they saw. I heard 10 stories. They all said the officer pulled him off the steps, handcuffed him and knocked him off his feet."

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