Autopsy slated in death of suspect at city lock-up

August 21, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

An autopsy is scheduled today for a 39-year-old burglary suspect who died in Baltimore's Eastern District lock-up yesterday morning.

Gregory Lee Booker, whose last known address was in the 2600 block of E. Madison St., died in police custody after apparently suffering drug-withdrawal symptoms that neither he nor a cellmate reported to anyone, a city police spokeswoman said.

Mr. Booker is the third man to die in city police custody since the beginning of last month. The death of Jesse Chapman, 30, of West Baltimore on July 2 and of George T. Hite, 31, of Southwest Baltimore on Aug. 9 after each was arrested near his home led to protests about alleged mistreatment by police.

Mr. Booker was arrested about noon Friday, police spokeswoman Sabrina Tapp-Harper said.

She said an officer responding to a report of a burglary in progress in the 700 block of Bradford St. arrested Mr. Booker and another man leaving a vacant apartment.

Mr. Booker was charged with a misdemeanor burglary, and a commissioner later set bail at $100, she said.

Police also found an outstanding arrest warrant naming Mr. Booker in contempt of court for failure to pay a fine on a drug conviction, she said.

About 8:30 a.m. yesterday, according to the police accounts, a turnkey brought food to Mr. Booker and a second man in the cell, whose name was not released.

"At 10 a.m., he was checked again by the turnkey," said Officer Tapp-Harper, "and the prisoner appeared to be asleep."

He was lying under the bunk. According to the police, the cellmate told them Mr. Booker said he needed something hard to sleep on, and chose the floor.

Next came an 11 a.m. check, when the police planned to move Mr. Booker and 15 other prisoners to the Northern District because the Eastern's lock-up was crowded, they said.

When Mr. Booker was unresponsive, they discovered he was dead, police said. Medics were called, and they tried to revive him.

It was only then, Officer Tapp-Harper said, that "the cellmate reported that the prisoner had been complaining of chills and cramps and vomiting. . . . The cellmate reported he put water on the prisoner's face in an attempt to revive him."

Eastern District officers reported that neither man asked for medical attention, she said.

The preliminary investigation by homicide detectives indicated no signs of trauma to Mr. Booker, she said, but his body had "obvious signs of extensive IV [intravenous] drug abuse." He also had an "extensive" police record of drug-related charges, she said.

The medical examiner's office said an autopsy is scheduled today.

In the other recent police-custody deaths, Mr. Hite developed pneumonia and died almost two months after he sustained a head injury during his arrest.

He lapsed into a coma after he hit his head on the pavement in front of his house in the 200 block of S. Fulton Ave. on June 19 while being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, police said.

The July 2 death of Mr. Chapman brought intense criticism of the police. Mr. Chapman died after police officers chased him from the Western District station to the 1100 block of N. Fulton Ave, near his home. His girlfriend had gone to the station to file an assault charge against him.

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