Couple sue D.C. officer, others over 1993 shooting

September 27, 1994|By Jay Apperson and David Michael Ettlin | Jay Apperson and David Michael Ettlin,Sun Staff Writers

A Parkville couple filed a federal lawsuit yesterday against the District of Columbia, its former police chief, a D.C. policewoman and her boyfriend, blaming all of them for an East Baltimore incident last year in which the man was shot and his wife was punched.

The filing of the suit came on the fourth day of a racially charged trial in which D.C. Officer Elania Pleshette Byrd and the boyfriend, James Banks, are accused of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Gregory Lee Boller, 33, of Parkville.

Prosecutors, who rested their case yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court, contend that Mr. Banks, 29, of Landover, shot Mr. Boller and that Officer Byrd, 27, of Suitland, battered the shooting victim's wife by punching her as she chased the gunman's car.

According to testimony, the Bollers and two friends were returning from a night out in Fells Point on Sept. 26, 1993, when they became involved in a dispute with another driver at Chase Street and Lakewood Avenue. When the driver of the car in front of them wouldn't proceed through a stop sign, Mr. Boller twice blew the horn, then got out of his vehicle and was then shot in the chest and the back of the head.

Witnesses said Mrs. Boller and a passenger in the couple's vehicle, Thomas Horner, called out racial slurs after the shooting. The gunman was described as a black man; the Bollers and their friends are white.

Police had no leads until a D.C. police officer told authorities that Officer Byrd had told him she had been involved in a shooting in Baltimore. Mr. Banks, the father of Officer Byrd's child, was identified as the gunman by Mr. Horner; Mrs. Boller identified Officer Byrd as a passenger in the gunman's car.

Defense lawyers say the male police officer is under indictment for corruption and was trying to curry favor with internal affairs investigators in Washington, and that many details he attributed to Officer Byrd are inconsistent with the shooting.

The defense lawyers also say the defendants have not been friendly since 1990, when Mr. Banks shot Officer Byrd in the foot during a domestic dispute. They say both have alibis for the night of the shooting.

The filing of the suit became an issue in the criminal trial when defense lawyers said the jury should be told the Bollers might have a financial motive for shading their testimony in hopes of gaining a conviction that would bolster their civil claim.

The defense received approval from presiding Judge Kenneth Lavon Johnson to recall Mrs. Boller to the stand to be questioned about the suit, which seeks $16 million.

The suit, filed in D.C. District Court, alleges that Officer Byrd's 9-mm Glock service pistol was used in the attack on Mr. Boller. Prosecutors in the criminal trial said ballistics tests did not link her weapon to that shooting.

With the police weapon as a crucial link, the suit blames the D.C. government and former Police Chief Issac Fullwood Jr. for depriving the Bollers of their constitutional rights by negligently hiring, training and disciplining Officer Byrd.

It contends that the department failed to do adequate background checks and kept her despite disciplinary problems and incidents that included the 1990 shooting.

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