Man, 32, shot in back by officer was unarmed Off-duty city policeman, suspect scuffled after chase, reports say

October 18, 1997|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

The man wounded by an off-duty Baltimore police officer after a scuffle in the Catonsville area Wednesday was unarmed and was shot in the back, according to police reports of the incident.

No weapon was found at the scene or on Gregory V. Getzendanner, 32, who was shot by Officer Lennie E. Mungo, said Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey. The investigation is continuing, Toohey said.

Mungo has been placed on routine administrative duty during a probe into the shooting, said Agent Ragina Cooper of the city Police Department.

Getzendanner, who has been charged with robbery and assault, remained at the University of Maryland Medical Center and was in good condition yesterday, said a hospital spokesman.

Neither Getzendanner nor Mungo returned phone calls seeking comment.

But a report filed by a Baltimore County police officer after the shooting provided additional details about the incident, including the scuffle in which Mungo said Getzendanner kicked him and reached for his gun. The police report was based on interviews with Mungo and witnesses.

According to the report, at 1: 30 p.m. Wednesday a blond man with a ponytail went into Beltway Pharmacy, a pharmacy and liquor store at the corner of Edmondson Avenue and Harlem Lane, and put a bottle of Smirnoff Red Label vodka into the front of his trousers.

Store employee Deborah Grahl was watching the man, identified by police as Getzendanner, in a security mirror. When he started to move toward the door, she stopped him, and told him to pay for the vodka or leave it in the store, according to the report.

"Getzendanner shoved Grahl out of the way and ran from the store," the report said.

Grahl and Leo Sirota, a pharmacist, ran outside and flagged down Mungo, who happened to be driving past as the robber ran up Harlem Avenue toward an apartment complex surrounded by woods. Mungo, who was familiar with the complex, drove to the driveway of the complex and got out of his car when he saw a blond man with a ponytail coming out of the woods, the report said.

Mungo, who was not in his uniform or driving a police car, identified himself as an officer, ordered the man to the ground and drew his police-issued 9-mm Glock, according to the report. The man, who was lying face-down on the ground, began to argue and reach for his waistband, the report said.

"The suspect began to question [Officer] Mungo's authority and began to get up," the report said. "The suspect next grabbed for the officer's gun, turned and kicked him in the chest. The officer fired two shots at the suspect, who next jumped up and ran Off. Mungo states he was sure he struck the suspect because he was holding his side."

Other officers were summoned and went to Getzendanner's apartment, which was in the complex. Getzendanner was there, and they took him into custody. A bottle of Smirnoff Red Label was found in a grassy area near the complex, the report said.

"Getzendanner was transported to Shock Trauma for treatment of a gunshot wound to the lower right back which exited his [abdomen]," the report said.

City police guidelines issued by Commissioner Thomas G. Frazier say an officer may discharge his firearm only under certain circumstances. They include self-defense or to defend another person from death or serious injury.

The guidelines also say officers can shoot "to effect the arrest or prevent the escape, when other means are insufficient, of a person whom the officer has probable cause to believe has committed a felony involving the use or threat of deadly force or serious physical injury and who poses an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."

Court documents show that Getzendanner has one conviction for disorderly behavior in public, as well as a parole violation.

Toohey and Cooper, the police spokesmen, said they did not know when the investigations would be completed.

Pub Date: 10/18/97

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