Hispanic community protests treatment by police, recent acts against Latinos

Former officer convicted of robbing three men

July 13, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

Marching among about 50 protesters yesterday outside the Baltimore Circuit Court building to demand that the state heal its bruised relationship with the city's Latino community, Hector Portillo kept his head down in silence.

Portillo didn't have to wave "We Want Justice" and "Justicia Para Todos" signs or shout in protest. His presence sufficed. Portillo was one of three men who accused former Baltimore police officer Dorian J. Martin of using his authority to rob them last year. And he and the crowd wanted to let officials know they do not approve of Martin's sentence.

To avoid jail time, Martin pleaded guilty last week to one count of felony robbery and agreed to pay $600 restitution to Portillo and James Garcillia Roy in order to have some robbery charges dropped. For Portillo and other local Latinos, who also are upset over a case of mistaken identity that landed Adolfo Ramirez in Anne Arundel County Detention Center for four days last week, that was not enough.

"I think it's time justice should be made," Portillo said through an interpreter. "He [Martin] committed a crime, therefore he should be in jail, punished."

Francine Stokes, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, could not be reached for comment.

Martin's attorney, Warren A. Brown, said he was not surprised by the protest because of the friction between minority groups and the justice system. By not consulting with the Latino community before offering the plea agreement, Brown said, the state's attorney's office caused more tension.

"I think they have a legitimate right to protest," Brown said. "It looks like it [the plea agreement] was done behind closed doors."

Martin, 25, who quit the force Dec. 28 after six years, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 9 to a three-year suspended sentence, three years of probation and four months of home detention for robbing Felix Guevara, 48, of $300 on Dec. 28. The charges filed by Portillo and Roy will be dropped.

Guevara, who did not attend the protest, was stopped on Gough Street while walking home from his job as a cook at Baltimore Brewing Co. Guevara said the officer demanded to see his immigration papers and made him put his hands on his head as the officer searched his pockets.

Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth A. Ritter told Judge Clifton J. Gordy on Thursday that Martin reached into Guevara's pockets and took $300 in cash.

"He pleaded guilty to avoid jail time," Brown said. "You can't send a police officer to jail and not expect it to be hard, hard time."

But Angelo Solera, vice chairman of the Mayor's Committee on Hispanic Affairs, said Martin should have to serve jail time, and that it's time for the Latino community to come together and demand justice.

"If we don't do this now, it's going to keep happening," said Solera, who organized the protest. "We want to put pressure on the system because we want justice."

Joining in the protest was Ramirez, who was walking to his Upper Fells Point home July 3 along Interstate 97 when state police troopers stopped him. Ramirez, who spent the evening at Cancun Cantina, a nightclub near the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, was stranded after his friend left with the car.

Police arrested him because his name, date of birth and physical description, including a few scars, matched that of an escaped convict in Sacramento, Calif.

Ramirez said he has a lawyer and plans to take legal action. "They keep me four days in jail to see who I am they don't always take all this time," he said.

Police said they made a mistake, but were following standard procedure.

Solera stressed that there are many honest police officers. Still, another protest is planned on Aug. 9 for Martin's sentencing.

Pub Date: 7/13/99

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