Protest resumes at police station over death of man, 30, in custody

July 07, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

For the second straight day, protesters gathered outside the Western District police station and demanded the department suspend the officers involved in arresting a man who was later found dead in the back of a police wagon.

"We are going to keep protesting," said Clyde Harris, a minister at Newborn Holiness Church in West Baltimore.

He and several witnesses accuse the police with beating Jesse Chapman, 30, to death during an arrest Saturday night.

Mr. Harris said that suspending the officers "would bring some satisfaction. Keeping them on the street isn't fair. . . . They are not welcome guests in our community. It is an insult to us as community residents to see these guys on the street."

Police officials say there is not enough evidence to remove the four officers from duty while the investigation by the department's homicide unit continues.

Commissioner Thomas Frazier said Tuesday that preliminary autopsy results show that Mr. Chapman's body had no evidence of blunt force trauma.

Yesterday, investigators were awaiting lab tests to determine the cause of death.

"If there was any indication what soever of brutality to substantiate what the witnesses said, we would have pulled the officers off the street," said Capt. Michael J. Andrew of the Western District.

About 25 protesters showed up at the station yesterday, calling the officers and the department racist. Mr. Chapman was black.

Witnesses said several officers involved in his arrest were white.

At least 100 protesters gathered Tuesday afternoon in a heated rally.

Mr. Chapman, who lived in the 1300 block of N. Fulton Ave., was pronounced dead at 11:57 p.m. Saturday in the back of a police wagon at the Western District station, in the 1000 block of N. Mount St.

Officers had just arrested Mr. Chapman after a struggle in the 1100 block of N. Fulton Ave., after he followed his girlfriend, Selma Battle, 29, into the Western District station, cursed her and tried to punch her, police said.

Officers chased Mr. Chapman from the station to a rowhouse around the corner in front of 1141 N. Fulton Ave., police said. Five people who say they saw the arrest contend in interviews with The Sun that at least four officers beat Mr. Chapman while he lay face down on the sidewalk.

One witness, Joseph Whynder, 76, said he watched from his stoop as the chase went by and ended six doors from where he lives.

"He laid down on his own," said Mr. Whynder, who added that he has been interviewed by police investigators. "They put handcuffs on him and then started beating him. They hit him long enough to kill him."

Captain Andrew said he talked about the incident yesterday during roll call for the 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, which includes the group of officers involved in Saturday's arrest.

"It is hard for the officers to go out and see even a minority of the community accusing them of brutality and comparing them with the Klan," he said.

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