Arrest of 2 mids causes academy to stand down Ex-state police chief says pair broke into his Annapolis home

April 17, 1996|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN STAFF

It was the last straw for a U.S. Naval Academy plagued with weeks of alleged wrongdoing: Two senior midshipmen were arrested early yesterday morning for breaking into the house of the former head of the Maryland State Police.

As a result, the academy has ordered an unprecedented weeklong "stand-down" for the entire 4,000-member brigade, denying all liberty privileges for midshipmen so they can focus on "responsibility and performance."

"The admiral said, 'Enough.' We have to look at what's going on here," said Karen Myers, an academy spokeswoman, referring to Adm. Charles R. Larson, the superintendent.

During the so-called stand-down -- which the entire Navy has used in the past to respond to problems such as sexual harassment -- officers at the academy will meet with upperclassmen and review leadership responsibilities, the academy said.

Academy officials said it was the first stand-down in memory, aside from restrictions ordered for the entire Navy.

Admiral Larson, who in an interview on Friday said there is no systemic problem at the 151-year-old military college, said in a release yesterday:

"I want the first classmen [seniors] and the commandant's staff to review what has happened and see what we must do to prevent these types of problems."

Capt. Randy Bogle, the commandant of midshipmen and the academy's second highest official, said: "Midshipmen need to understand that what they do or don't do reflects on themselves, their shipmates, the Naval Academy and the Navy."

Annapolis police arrested Midshipmen 1st Class Derek Gillespie, of Newport, R.I., and

Steven Saunders, 23, of San Francisco. Both were charged with fourth-degree burglary and Mr. Gillespie with theft of a badge shortly after 1: 30 a.m. at the home of Larry W. Tolliver, superintendent of the Maryland State Police from 1992 to 1994.

"They were very high on something. They had a stench of alcohol," said Mr. Tolliver, who held one of the midshipmen by the arm for several minutes before police arrived.

Mr. Tolliver said the midshipmen arrived at his Admiral Heights home, not far from the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, climbed on top of the garage and walked around to his daughter Danielle's second-floor bedroom window at the rear of the house.

Daughter knew midshipman

They started banging on the window, said the former state police chief. Ms. Tolliver recognized Midshipman Saunders, whom she dated four years earlier and had not seen since.

"She opened the window, they stepped in," said Mr. Tolliver. "She told them they had to get out of the house. One of them stepped over and stole her badge." Ms. Tolliver, 20, is a cadet with the Annapolis Police Department.

The midshipmen left across the roofline and once again dropped to the ground, where Mr. Tolliver, having been alerted by the noise, was waiting by the front door.

"I said, 'What are you doing here.' He [Midshipman Saunders] said, 'I just wanted to see Danielle,' " recalled Mr. Tolliver, who said his daughter came downstairs visibly upset. "I grabbed him and brought him back to the house."

Tolliver carried pistol

Ms. Tolliver never felt threatened, said her father. The burly former state police superintendent (6 feet 1 inch tall and weighing 250 pounds) said the 5-foot-6-inch midshipman was no match. Mr. Tolliver also said he had a .38-caliber handgun in his pocket but never showed it.

He recalled Midshipman Saunders telling him he was about to be kicked out of the academy, although academy officials had no immediate comment.

As Mr. Tolliver was holding onto the midshipman, he said he noticed Midshipman Gillespie heading back up the driveway.

Police were called and arrived several minutes later.

Annapolis police Capt. John Wright said both midshipmen were charged with fourth-degree burglary, a misdemeanor offense, and Midshipman Gillespie was charged with theft for allegedly taking Ms. Tolliver's community service officer's badge.

"I don't think this is indicative of everyone at the Naval Academy," said Mr. Tolliver, who said his family has "sponsored" midshipmen for years.

Many Annapolis families open up their houses as homes-away-from-home for midshipmen. "There are a lot of fine people we still stay in touch with."

The stand-down will most effect the privileges of senior midshipmen who have liberty until midnight every weeknight except Wednesday.

Juniors can leave the Yard Tuesday nights until midnight if they are on the superintendent's, or dean's, list. Sophomores and freshmen do not have any weeknight liberty.

Admiral Larson said in the interview Friday that the rash of troubles at the academy involving midshipmen, ranging from allegations of sexual assault to child abuse to a car-theft ring, are either isolated incidents or reflective of a stricter climate at the academy.

"I think we're on a good course," he said Friday. "Things just happened to converge all at once."

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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