Vernon Eugene Estep Jr., who was critically wounded by an Annapolis police officer Sept. 2 in a shooting in the Robinwood community in which another man died, was indicted yesterday on attempted-murder charges.
The jury declined to indict Officer David W. Garcia, a seven-year veteran who was accused of reacting violently when he shot Estep, 19, of the 1100 block of Madison St. and Cochise Ornandez Daughtry, 18, of the 1300 block of Tyler Ave. while trying to stop a beating. Daughtry died in the shooting.
Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said the grand jury returned the indictment after hearing testimony from police investigators and deliberating for about one hour.
The incident sparked a neighborhood protest and accusations of police racism and brutality. Lawyers representing the shooting victims were outraged.
"It's not fair, it's not right, and we're clearly outraged," said Dwayne A. Brown, representing the Daughtry family. "I feel for Mr. Estep. This kid gets shot by the police, ends up in shock trauma and nearly dies and then they charge him with attempted murder." He said Daughtry's mother was "very disappointed."
The incident began about 12: 15 a.m. on Labor Day when Garcia answered a report of shots being fired in Robinwood. Moments later, he saw two men beating a third with a broken bottle, police said. In an attempt to stop the beating, Garcia fired four shots, killing Daughtry and wounding Estep.
Police said Garcia was trying to save the life of Carlester Jackson, 40, of the 1400 block of Tyler Ave., who was treated at a hospital and released. Garcia shouted a warning before he fired, according to Jackson. But community leaders, who
questioned the accuracy of the police version, claimed that Garcia never identified himself and started shooting immediately.
Although attorneys for Estep have maintained that he is innocent, he told investigators on the afternoon after the shooting that he and Daughtry were arguing with Jackson when the altercation began, police sources said.
"I pushed him and told him to get out of my face," Estep said in a four-page statement to police while he was recovering at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. "He was hitting me, and I was hitting him."
Estep's lawyer, William H. Murphy Jr., has filed a notice of intent to sue the city for $2 million.
The indictment ends a four-month investigation into Garcia, who expressed "relief" at what he called the "good news."
"The whole incident was tragic and unfortunate," said Garcia, who has been on administrative duty since the shooting. "But I'm glad the investigation on me is over." Garcia will be placed back on active duty next month, police officials said.
Neighborhood leaders say they will continue their fight. They were planning a community meeting last night.
"The system always sides with the police officer," said Theodore Brown, president of the Friends of Black Annapolitans. "He is just hiding behind his badge. It's ludicrous and this is far from over."
Annapolis Police Chief Joseph S. Johnson called for meetings among city officials, the Police Department and community in order to prevent a similar incident.
Pub Date: 1/07/97