Self-defense at issue in resort killing

June 09, 1995|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,Eastern Shore Bureau of The Sun

OCEAN CITY -- Michael Aaron Comegys, from Overlea in Baltimore County, could have been any 19-year-old at the beach this summer: partying, maybe becoming one of the hundreds of teen-agers arrested for minor misbehavior before going home with a tan and memories.

But he wasn't. Instead, he is dead, shot during an altercation with an apartment owner early Wednesday.

The investigation is continuing, Ocean City police said yesterday, and a grand jury will hear the case this summer.

For now, the apartment owner, Edward Paul Maugans Jr., 63, is free on $250,000 bail and is charged with manslaughter in Mr. Comegys' death, although the grand jury could reduce the charge to nothing or change it to murder.

Neither Mr. Maugans, his legal counsel nor Comegys family members could be reached yesterday.

"If you had to guess the number of young men that are graduating high school who come to Ocean City, drink way too much, get loud . . . there are hundreds every night," said James C. Zervakos, an Ocean City detective investigating the shooting. "Why was this kid different from all the others before him?"

The case is unusual not only because a typical situation became atypically lethal, the detective said, but because little disagreement exists among witnesses about what happened early Wednesday.

"All the stories seem to be pretty close the same thing," said Detective Zervakos. "It's rare, but we're not dealing with what happened. There's no question about that. We're dealing with whether what happened is legal. Is it a self-defense case?"

Detectives Zervakos and William T. Cocco have pieced together this account from interviews with the victim's friends, residents of the Rancho Apartments on 12th Street where Mr. Comegys died, and witnesses:

Shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday, Mr. Comegys and several friends came to the Rancho Apartments. They were looking for someone they believed had beaten a friend so severely this week that his jaw was broken in three places.

Mr. Maugans told the loud, angry group to leave. The group did, but returned. Mr. Maugans tried to call 911. But his phone was out of order because of a storm this week.

A few minutes later, Mr. Comegys and Michael J. Gorman, 24, of Baltimore went to the door of No. 5, Mr. Maugans' apartment. Again, Mr. Maugans asked them to leave, but this time they didn't.

Mr. Maugans then picked up his H&R single-shot, 410-gauge shotgun in an effort to deter Mr. Comegys, who kept advancing toward the open apartment door where Mr. Maugans was standing. Mr. Comegys lunged forward, and Mr. Maugans fired, police said, hitting the young man in the heart and killing him.

"The landlord was trying to protect his rights and his property," said Detective Zervakos. "The kid was trying to find out who beat up his friend."

Raucous behavior, even guns, are not unusual in Ocean City, police said. Over Memorial Day weekend, officers answered 1,300 calls of disturbances, drunk and disorderly behavior and fights.

"It's not Dodge City out there, but these kids drink too much," said Detective Cocco. School rivalries and revenge for fights are often in the equation with youth and alcohol, both detectives said.

The detectives said witnesses agreed that although Mr. Comegys was abusive, even threatening to get a gun to kill Mr. Maugans and other Rancho residents, he did not say he actually had a weapon. None was found on him, the detectives said.

"What the grand jury has to decide is, what other options did the manager have?" said Detective Zervakos. "There is no doubt the victim in the shooting was making threats, angry, yelling and screaming.

"The question is, was it enough to put the landlord in the position where he had to kill this kid?"

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