Decorated officer indicted in extortion attempt

August 02, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

A former "Officer of the Year" was indicted yesterday in Anne Arundel County in the attempt to extort $500 from a man he suspected had committed a sex offense.

Officer Gregory William Overstreet, known as "Robocop" because of his aggressive approach to his job, was indicted by grand jury on four counts of extortion and one count each of bribery and misconduct in office.

The charges stem from an incident that allegedly occurred last month at Queenstown Park.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee declined to discuss the specifics but said Officer Overstreet, 31, faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Officer Overstreet, who has been with the department for nine years, won the department's silver star and a purple heart after he was shot twice while making a drug arrest in Pioneer City in 1991.

Both bullets hit his bullet-proof vest. One deflected and went into his shoulder.

He also received an "Officer of the Year" award from the Western District and a citation from Gov. William Donald Schaefer for making more than 180 drunk driving arrests in a single year, said his attorney, Peter S. O'Neill.

On July 20, he tried to extort $500 from a man he accused of fondling himself in the park, according to court papers.

The Police Department began an internal affairs investigation after a member of the man's family called July 21 to complain, said Sgt. Robert Johnson, a county police spokesman.

Officer Overstreet allegedly ordered the man into his cruiser, then told him the matter "could be taken care of" for $500, Sergeant Johnson said.

When the man asked for time to get the money, Officer Overstreet replied that the incident would be forgotten if the money was received by the next day, Sergeant Johnson said.

The officer allegedly told the man to put the money in an envelope and place it under a trash can at the north end of the park. Internal affairs detectives put an envelope containing a $100 bill under the trash can, about 1 p.m. July 22, and staked out the park.

Officer Overstreet allegedly showed up shortly before 3 p.m., took the envelope to his police car and left the park, Sergeant Johnson said.

That afternoon detectives searched the officer, his Harwood home and police car. They found the $100 bill, which they identified through serial numbers, in his car, Sergeant Johnson said.

Queenstown Park, where the alleged incident took place, is notorious for illicit sexual activity, though there is no evidence the alleged victim committed any crime, police said.

Lt. Hank Snow, commander of the department's internal affairs division, said Officer Overstreet remained suspended with pay last night while Chief Robert Russell reviewed his status. He could be placed on unpaid suspension today.

He was expected to surrender today at the Southern District police station for a bail review hearing.

Lieutenant Snow said Officer Overstreet's case is the first instance he could recall in which a county officer was accused of extortion.

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