Officer shoots suspect

August 22, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

A man who Baltimore police said tried to beat an officer with a nightstick was in critical condition after the officer shot him yesterday afternoon at Bon Secours Hospital.

Melvin Calwell, 22, who has been in police custody since Friday, came out of the bathroom of his hospital room about 3:45 p.m., grabbed the officer's nightstick and struck him with it, according to police accounts.

"He hit the officer on the knuckles," said Officer Sabrina V. Tapp-Harper, a police spokeswoman. "And then he tried to hit him several more times."

Officer Tapp-Harper said Officer David Lesher had put his nightstick on a table in the room while Mr. Calwell went into the bathroom. She said that when Mr. Calwell came out of the bathroom, he lunged at the officer and grabbed the nightstick. For a moment, the officer was pinned between the bathroom door and the door that led to the hall.

The officer managed to get into the hallway.

"They went around the corner and proceeded down the hallway while the officer ordered him several times to drop the stick," Officer Tapp-Harper said.

She said that when Mr. Calwell refused to drop the nightstick, Officer Lesher fired one shot from his 9mm service pistol, wounding Mr. Calwell in the chest.

Mr. Calwell, who was being held on charges of burglary and false imprisonment, was in critical condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Officer Tapp-Harper said.

Mr. Calwell was arrested Friday when police answered a burglary call at a house in the 2000 block of Whittier Ave. When officers arrived, they found a woman tied up and Mr. Calwell leaving the house, said Officer Tapp-Harper. After the arrest, Mr. Calwell swallowed cocaine, she said, and he was taken to Bon Secours Hospital in the 2000 block of W. Baltimore St. for treatment.

Yesterday, Officer Lesher, who was working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, was assigned to guard Mr. Calwell, Officer Tapp-Harper said. It is routine procedure for an officer to be assigned guard duty when a prisoner is hospitalized.

An officer's nightstick normally is attached to his gun belt.

Officer Tapp-Harper speculated that Officer Lesher took it off because it is difficult to sit with the stick attached to the belt. She said Mr. Calwell was wearing leg irons but his handcuffs had been taken off so he could use the bathroom.

Officer Lesher was treated for a hand injury at Bon Secours and will be placed on routine administrative duties pending a police investigation into the incident, Officer Tapp-Harper said.

Meanwhile, police say they will receive the autopsy report today for a 39-year-old burglary suspect who was found dead in a holding cell in the city's Eastern District lockup Saturday.

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

Mr. Booker was found dead underneath his bunk about 11 a.m. when officers went to his cell to transport him and other prisoners to another district.

He was the third man to die in city police custody since July 1. Jesse Chapman, 30, of West Baltimore, died on July 2 and George T. Hite, 31, of Southwest Baltimore, died on Aug. 9.

Mr. Hite developed pneumonia and died almost two months after he received a head injury when he fell and hit his head on the sidewalk during his arrest June 19.

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

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