Man dies 2 months after arrest

August 11, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

A comatose South Baltimore man died Tuesday night -- nearly two months after he suffered a head injury while being arrested by two city police officers.

George T. Hite, 31, was pronounced dead about 9 p.m. at the Greenery Extended Care Center in Baltimore.

Thomas C. Cardaro, a lawyer for Mr. Hite's family, said Mr. Hite died after developing pneumonia. The lawyer said an autopsy was completed yesterday, but the medical examiner is waiting for test results before ruling on a cause of death.

Mr. Hite lapsed into a coma after hitting his head on the pavement in front of his house in the 200 block of S. Fulton Ave. The incident occurred on June 19 as the officers arrested him on disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges.

Witnesses have accused the arresting officers of deliberately tripping Mr. Hite after he was handcuffed. The officers maintain that Mr. Hite slipped while they were trying to handcuff him, according to city police.

The allegations sparked investigations by the city police, the FBI and the Baltimore state's attorney's office.

The July 2 death of Jesse Chapman, 30, also sparked police brutality investigations by the same agencies. Mr. Chapman died after several officers chased him from the Western District police station to the 1100 block of N. Fulton Ave. The incident occurred after Mr. Chapman's girlfriend went to the Western District to file an assault charge against him.

A preliminary autopsy report revealed that Mr. Chapman did not die from blunt force trauma, and city police maintain that he had asthma and had been on a cocaine binge prior to his death.

The police account of the incident is disputed by witnesses who accuse the officers of beating Mr. Chapman and tossing his body into the back of a police van.

The state medical examiner's office completed its autopsy of Mr. Chapman last month, but it has refused to release the report until prosecutors have finished their probe.

Yesterday, Deputy State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said the Chapman case could be concluded within two weeks. "Something should be coming out soon," she said.

FTC The Hite case, however, may take longer. Ms. Jessamy said her office's investigation "is continuing. There has been no resolution. This [Mr. Hite's death] may slightly extend it."

Ms. Jessamy would not comment on whether the Hite case will be presented to a grand jury.

Two witnesses yesterday questioned the thoroughness of the investigation. They said they spoke with a city police officer two days after the incident and have heard nothing since.

"That was in June," said Deborah Wood, who lives near Mr.

Hite's house. "This is August. Nobody has contacted me so far. I've wondered what was being done. I don't know what they are doing."

Another witness, Howard Chaplinski, who said in June that he spoke to city police for several hours about the incident, said yesterday that someone from the state's attorney's office called once, but he couldn't talk because he was going to work. He said he hasn't heard from the office again.

Ms. Jessamy said she could not comment on specific witnesses, but said, "If you have an investigation, you interview witnesses. That's what an investigation is all about."

Mr. Hite's relatives said they turned over a dozen names to investigators.

Police said Mr. Hite was drinking a beer on his front stoop when he yelled at officers who were searching a drug suspect nearby.

Two officers told him to be quiet, according to witnesses, and then started to arrest him.

Officers Jae Yim, 25, and Stanley Reaves, 22, were assigned to administrative duties in the Southern District four days after the incident.

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