Community leaders seek new investigation into shooting by police Teen may have tried to aid, not attack, before his death

November 15, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

African-American community leaders in Annapolis will meet tomorrow to demand another probe into the 1996 death of Cochise Daughtry because newly disclosed documents indicate the 18-year-old may have been trying to help a beating victim when he was shot by police.

It would be the second call to reopen the case. Last week, the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also demanded a new investigation into the Labor Day shooting in the Robinwood public housing complex.

City police Officer David W. Garcia, responding to a report of shots being fired, said he came upon two men brutally beating another man, called a warning and fired. Daughtry was killed and Vernon Eugene Estep Jr., then 19, was seriously wounded.

But documents obtained recently by The Sun, including a statement from a key witness, raise questions, including whether Daughtry was participating in a mugging or coming to the victim's aid.

"At the time of the shooting, I and other members of the community said that Cochise's death was unjustified," said Robert H. Eades, spokesman for the Anne Arundel County African American Unity Coalition, which is holding the protest meeting at 6: 30 p.m. at First Baptist Church on West Washington Street in Annapolis.

"The newly released documents published in the Baltimore Sun this week proves that we were right," Eades said. "We are determined that his death not be in vain."

Members of the clergy, elected officials, civil rights activists and residents have been invited to the rally. The Rev. James Moone, president of the Maryland chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, will speak.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Justice Department investigation is pending. Estep was to have gone on trial Tuesday on a number of charges stemming from the incident, including assault with intent to murder. But the trial has been postponed.

The documents, including an initial statement by Carlester Jackson, the beating victim, indicate that Garcia may have mistaken Daughtry's role. Jackson said the young man was trying to stop the beating when he was shot.

That statement conflicts with a later one he gave police, in which he implied that the teen-agers were involved in drug dealing and that he was unsure whether one or two men were beating him. In both statements, Jackson credited Garcia with saving his life.

According to police accounts of the shooting, Garcia was answering a call about gunfire in the 1300 block of Tyler Ave. at 12: 30 a.m. when he saw three men running near the woods.

As he approached, Garcia wrote in a statement, he saw two men beating another man who was lying on the ground. Then one of the men, later identified as Estep, broke a large glass bottle over the victim's head as another man, later identified as Daughtry, kicked the victim in the head.

After he yelled "Stop!" and the beating continued, his statement said, Garcia shot Estep and Daughtry when it appeared that one of them reached for a weapon. No weapon was found, but crack cocaine was recovered from the scene, police said.

Police officials have strongly defended Garcia's actions, adding that a four-month internal investigation cleared the officer, and a county grand jury declined to indict him in January 1997.

But the "new evidence is troubling," said longtime civil rights activist Carl O. Snowden. "I think it's very important this doesn't inflame and polarize the community. But officials should not dismiss the new evidence. It would be a grave mistake."

Pub Date: 11/15/98

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