Sheriff welcomes FBI scrutiny of two arrests Inquiry centers on actions of Frederick Co. deputies

July 03, 1998|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

The sheriff of Frederick County said yesterday he welcomes an FBI investigation into allegations his officers violated the civil rights of a diabetic man they mistook for a drunken driver and of a school teacher who was arrested and shackled for driving too slowly.

In Baltimore, FBI Special Agent Larry Foust called the agency's involvement a "preliminary inquiry" prompted by news accounts of the incidents.

Foust said that after an initial investigation, agents will consult with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office to decide whether to proceed with a full-fledged investigation.

"There have been preliminary inquiries opened up in both of those instances," he said. "They resulted from allegations of excessive force. We intend to take a thorough look at that."

Foust said he did not know how long the preliminary inquiries would take.

Frederick's sheriff, James W. Hagy, has defended the behavior of his deputies. He said through a spokesman yesterday that he continues to believe they acted properly and added he welcomes an investigation.

"The sheriff is confident we were in the right," said Capt. Fred Anderson of the sheriff's department. "He's confident an investigation will help clear up what happened and we can move on. We intend to cooperate fully."

One inquiry will focus on how deputies handled the case of Ester M. Pena, a 58-year-old school teacher from Washington.

She was stopped by deputies June 12 about 12: 30 p.m., while she was driving on U.S. 15 on her way to a luncheon with her church group. The sheriff has said a deputy followed her more than three miles with his cruiser's lights flashing before she pulled over.

The deputy, John Keyser, wanted her to pull over because she was traveling too slowly -- 38 mph in a 55 mph zone -- the sheriff said. When she finally stopped, Keyser grabbed Pena from the car while pointing his service revolver at her, according to Pena and the sheriff.

She was handcuffed and taken to the Frederick County central booking station, where her legs were shackled. The sheriff does not dispute Pena's claims that she did not resist arrest but says the handcuffing and shackling of the legs are standard police procedure.

Pena has said she first believed the deputy's car was an ambulance.

She was charged with fleeing and eluding police and impeding traffic.

About 12 hours after that incident, deputies were involved in an altercation with Frederick T. Moore IV, of Centreville, Va., who was driving in the wrong direction on U.S. 340.

In that case, after a nine-mile pursuit, Deputy 1st Class Rick Winer forced Moore's pickup truck onto a grassy area near Interstate 70.

He ignored officers' instructions to get out of the vehicle, according to the sheriff's department, and was growling at deputies. Winer used pepper spray, his nightstick and a police dog to subdue Moore.

His attorney, Peter J. Davis, says Moore was hit at least 10 times and was bit by the dog several times.

After Moore was removed from his pickup, officers noticed a medic alert tag hanging from his rearview mirror.

Deputies were told by an emergency room doctor at Frederick Memorial Hospital that Moore had a dangerously low blood-sugar level. They charged him with fleeing and eluding police, reckless and negligent driving, disobeying a lawful order of a police officer and failure to drive in the designated direction of a highway.

The charges were dropped after State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle reviewed Moore's medical records.

Pub Date: 7/03/98

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