Trial board recommends firing officer who shot at wife, man He's suspended with pay pending Frazier review

November 19, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore police officer who was videotaped fatally shooting a man armed with a knife outside Lexington Market in August faces dismissal after a trial board found him guilty of shooting at his wife and another man in 1995.

Officer Charles M. Smothers II, who has been on the force four years, was in tears yesterday after a trial board recommended that he be fired for the assault. He was suspended with pay, pending action by Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.

The trial board, a three-member panel of police officers, found Smothers guilty of three administrative charges stemming from a complaint that he fired his service weapon at Michael Scott, a Baltimore County police officer, and Smothers' then-girlfriend, Linda Callwood Smothers. The Smothers were married two months after the April 2, 1995, incident.

Within five days, Frazier will receive a written report detailing the trial board's finding and recommended punishment. The commissioner may accept or reject the recommendation. He is required to act within 30 days of receiving the report.

Smothers, who could face another internal disciplinary hearing in the fatal shooting of James Quarles outside a crowded Lexington Market on Aug. 9, did not comment yesterday.

His lawyer, G. Matthew Immler, said of the trial board's finding: "Obviously, we're very disappointed. There were inconsistencies in the testimony that should have given the board problems and reason for a finding of not guilty."

During the four-hour hearing, Smothers testified that his service weapon fell out of its holster during a scuffle with Scott and inadvertently went off.

"I tripped because I was on gravelly ground," Smothers testified. "That's when my weapon accidentally discharged."

Smothers' wife and her mother, Margarita Ekegbu, supported his version of events, challenging the responding officers' account. Three officers testified that Mrs. Smothers and Ekegbu told them that Smothers tried to kill Scott.

Scott testified that Smothers aimed his weapon and fired at him and Mrs. Smothers after Smothers found them in Scott's car in the alley behind Ekegbu's home on Belvedere Avenue. Scott testified that Smothers also kicked him and Mrs. Smothers.

A 15-year-old girl who witnessed the incident from her bedroom window corroborated Scott's testimony.

Smothers had entered an Alford plea in the domestic case in 1995 and was given two years' probation before judgment. His probation ends Nov. 27 but he was restored to duty in August 1996.

Gary May, the Police Department's chief legal counselor, who prosecutes officers accused of wrongdoing, said he was happy with the board's finding.

Said May: "It is within the punishment guidelines for offenses of this nature and is consistent with the police commissioner's position on domestic violence, and that is that it will not be tolerated."

Pub Date: 11/19/97

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