The sister of a mentally ill woman who was shot dead by police officers in her North Baltimore home in January has filed a $28 million lawsuit against the city, charging that the officers had no business going into Betty Keat's house that day.
Assistant State's Attorney Timothy J. Doory said yesterday that his office had decided not to prosecute the officers who shot Keat, 63, after she raised a kitchen knife as she approached them Jan. 12.
Keat's sister and niece said yesterday that they were disappointed but not surprised. Prosecutors indicated to them months ago that they would not pursue a criminal case because the shooting appeared to be necessary to protect an officer's life.
Keat family members said they were troubled that although police originally told them two shots had been fired, a family member found a third bullet and another fragment in the house.
"There were four or five officers at the scene, and they couldn't handle a matter like this," said Keat's sister, Janet Beyer of Newport News, Va. "I think they should pay for their mistakes. Otherwise, they go unchecked."
Bernard Ilkhanoff, associate legal counsel for the Baltimore Police Department, said that he had not seen Beyer's lawsuit and that office policy prevented him from discussing it. The suit also names five officers who were on the scene that day.
Police were called to Keat's home in the 300 block of Taplow Road in Homeland by neighbors, who said Keat had thrown bottles containing unlighted matches and an undetermined flammable liquid into their yards.
A police spokesman said the officers, after smelling some kind of flammable liquid, which made them think Keat had hurt herself, tried to enter her house to determine whether she was safe.
Police had taken Keat, who suffered from manic depression and paranoid schizophrenia, to the hospital many times. On this occasion, four officers -- Philip Lassahn, Marla Outlaw, Manuel Eldridge Jr. and Scott Dickson Jr., who are also defendants in the lawsuit -- entered Keat's home by smashing a living room window, which violated her privacy and started the events that led to her death, the woman's family said.
When Keat heard the officers, she descended the stairs and raised the knife. Identifying themselves as police, they ordered Keat to drop the knife and sprayed her twice with pepper spray. When she continued to advance on Lassahn, Eldridge and Dickson shot her in the back and arm.
The lawsuit also charges the officers, the city and, by extension, the state with using excessive force, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Pub Date: 10/04/96