Prosecutor says investigation into Chapman's death is continuing

August 04, 1994|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,Sun Staff Writer

A police brutality investigation continues more than a month after a West Baltimore man died in police custody and a city prosecutor yesterday declined to say when the probe will end or if the case will be presented to a grand jury.

"Our investigation is continuing. It's our policy not to make comments concerning ongoing investigations," said Assistant State Attorney Don Giblin.

"I have no comment on whether or not it is going to the grand jury."

Mr. Giblin fended off further questions by referring a reporter to the head of the investigation, Stuart O. Simms, the city state's attorney. Efforts to reach Mr. Simms yesterday were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the death of Jesse Chapman continues to inflame his family and Sandtown-Winchester residents who maintain that they saw police beat him to death on July 2.

Shortly after Mr. Chapman's death, city police commissioner Thomas Frazier said a preliminary autopsy report showed that Mr. Chapman did not die from blunt force trauma.

Mr. Frazier did not rule out the possibility that the arresting officers used excessive force, but he pointed out that Mr. Chapman suffered from asthma and had been on a cocaine binge prior to his confrontation with the officers.

Yesterday, a Fraternal Order of Police official criticized Mr. Simms for failing to conclude the investigation more quickly.

"We're disappointed," said Gary McLhinney, national trustee of the FOP and a Baltimore city police officer. "It's obvious these officers did nothing wrong, except try to arrest an individual that didn't want to be arrested. The state's attorney knows this, and for apparent political reasons, he's chosen to slow this investigation down."

Mr. Chapman, 30, was found dead in a police wagon after he was arrested in the 1100 block of N. Fulton Ave. Western District officers chased him to that location after breaking up a fight between Mr. Chapman and his girlfriend that erupted inside the police station in the 1000 block of N. Mount Street.

His death touched off three days of protests by neighborhood residents who claimed that the officers beat Mr. Chapman to death after they caught him.

The incident sparked investigations by the city state's attorney's office and the FBI. Reacting to community pressure, Mr. Frazier removed five Western District officers from their beats.

On Monday, a lawyer for Mr. Chapman's family notified the city that it would be hit with a multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleging police brutality.

His mother, Judith Weston, has been at the forefront of much of the criticism aimed at authorities.

While authorities say the preliminary autopsy report shows that Mr. Chapman had minor scratches and bruises, she insists that his injuries were far worse. Mrs. Weston said she suspected that her son was a victim of foul play after the medical examiner's office would not allow her to identify his body.

Yesterday, Dr. John Smialek, chief medical examiner, said that according to homicide detectives, Mr. Chapman's body was identified at the scene of his death by his girlfriend, Selma Battle.

Dr. Smialek also said the medical examiner's office "does not have adequate facilities for allowing family to view bodies," and Mrs. Weston "was informed that when the body was here [in the medical examiner's office], an identification had already been made."

Mrs. Weston said she saw her son's body after it arrived at March Funeral Home.

"When I first saw the body my first impression was, the [police] tried to beat his brains out. His temple was busted open. It looked to me like the skull was busted and his nose was broken. I'm not making accusations out of the blue," she said.

Erich March, general manager of the funeral home, said an employee made a sketch showing the injuries to Mr. Chapman's face. The crudely drawn sketch shows several bruises and a cut.

Mr. March said it is "standard procedure" for undertakers to document injuries such as those suffered by Mr. Chapman.

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