Police overtime shift at public pool was unfilled on day of fatal shooting

June 21, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore police commanders were trying yesterday to determine why an overtime slot at the Clifton Park pool went unfilled the same day that a teen-ager was fatally shot in a pavilion near the crowded pool.

The Southern District officer who signed up for the Monday shift canceled Thursday and properly notified department officials, said Sam Ringgold, a city police spokesman.

But no one from the Secondary Employment Unit followed through. They "didn't have another officer fill in," Mr. Ringgold said. "Apparently, somehow, it fell through the cracks."

Abdul Wesby-Bey, 19, was shot several times, including once in the chest, about 3 p.m. He died a short time later at Johns Hopkins Hospital. No arrests had been made as of yesterday evening.

Alma Bell, a spokeswoman for the Department of Recreation and Parks, said her office has hired off-duty police officers to patrol the five park pools, which opened Saturday, for the past five years. The pools are open from noon to 8 p.m.

"We have been very satisfied," Ms. Bell said. "Occasionally, as in all jobs, someone doesn't come. But we don't know if that's going to be the time we have a particular need for one."

Mr. Ringgold said pool officials did not notify the Police Department until 2 p.m. that an officer had not shown up. A dispatcher broadcast the overtime opening, but "there weren't any takers," the spokesman said.

The police officer at the pool remains in the fenced-in area, police said. The shooting occurred at the entrance to the pavilion, which cannot be seen by swimmers. The pool closed for three hours after the shooting.

Maj. Bert E. Shirey, commander of the Northeastern District, where the shooting occurred, said he was concerned. "I would prefer to have it covered every day," he said. "The reasons should be obvious right now. These things can happen and do happen. That's why an officer is there in the first place."

Major Shirey and Mr. Ringgold said it is impossible to know whether an on-scene officer would have prevented the violence, which apparently began as a poolside fight.

But 19-year-old Kevin Briggs, the victim's brother, said an officer would have dealt with the initial altercation differently than the life guards, who ejected the fighting teens from the pool, and prevented fisticuffs from escalating into a fatal shooting.

"If the officer was there, my brother probably would be alive," Mr. Briggs said. He asked that police investigate the officer's absence, but quietly conceded: "There is nothing that can be done now."

Other relatives declined to comment on the shooting of Mr. Wesby-Bey, who was known as "Slab" and lived with family members in a corner rowhouse in the 2800 block of Kennedy Ave., about 10 blocks from the pool. Scrawled outside his house were the words, "Rest in Peace Slab."

Police said two Northeastern District officers responded to the pool, located off St. Lo Drive, about 3 p.m. in response to a call about a fight. Finding none, they left, and heard the gunshot as they drove away.

Police said yesterday they knew of no motive or suspects.

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