Jury probes man's death during Baltimore arrest

August 30, 1994|By Jay Apperson and Peter Hermann | Jay Apperson and Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writers

A Baltimore grand jury began hearing testimony yesterday in the death of a Baltimore man who suffered a head injury after falling to the sidewalk while being arrested by two city police officers.

At least three witnesses testified at the panel's closed session on the events surrounding the arrest of 31-year-old George T. Hite, said Deborah Wood, one of the witnesses. Mark Cohen, an assistant state's attorney, confirmed that the case went to the grand jury yesterday.

Ms. Wood, who lived in the block where the arrest occurred, said she testified for about 30 minutes yesterday morning. She said there were two other witnesses she could not identify but recognized as "people from the neighborhood." She said a prosecutor told her more witnesses were scheduled for the afternoon.

Mr. Cohen would not say which witnesses testified.

Ms. Wood would not discuss her testimony but said of the case, "I'm glad it went before the grand jury."

Mr. Hite died Aug. 9, nearly two months after he 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 Baltimore state's attorney's office is withholding an autopsy report on Mr. Hite.

Mr. Hite was injured shortly after midnight June 19, as officers arrested him on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Witnesses have accused the arresting officers of deliberately tripping Mr. Hite after he was handcuffed.

The officers have said that Mr. Hite slipped while they were trying to handcuff him, according to police.

The arresting officers, Jae Yim, 25, and Stanley Reaves, 22, were assigned to administrative duties in the Southern District four days after the arrest. The allegations of police brutality in the Hite case prompted investigations by the city police, the FBI and the Baltimore state's attorney's office.

Dan Johnson, a spokesman for the FBI's Baltimore office, said yesterday that the federal civil rights investigation is likely to be completed in two to three weeks. He said investigators will include the results of the grand jury investigation in a report to the U.S. Department of Justice, where a decision will be made on whether to prosecute.

Mr. Cohen, the prosecutor, was unable to say when the grand jury's review of the case would be completed.

The grand jury considering the case is the same panel that last week dismissed allegations that city police officers beat Jesse Chapman Jr. to death during an arrest last month on a West Baltimore street.

On July 25, the same grand jury indicted Baltimore Officer George S. Cannida III on second-degree rape and other charges in an alleged attack on a woman at her home, where he had gone looking for an auto theft suspect.

Officer Cannida has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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