Police shooting report disputed

Slain man pleaded with officers for life, witnesses contend

October 09, 1999|By Tim Craig and Peter Hermann | Tim Craig and Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A man killed by a police officer Thursday evening in East Baltimore was shot in the back of the head -- a revelation that raises questions about a shooting that has enraged residents in the Barclay Street neighborhood.

Homicide detectives are sorting through two distinct versions of what happened when two officers confronted Larry J. Hubbard, 21, after he ran from an Oldsmobile that was reported stolen from Montgomery County on Tuesday.

The officers describe a violent struggle with Hubbard before the fatal shooting on a street near the city school headquarters. Seven witnesses interviewed by The Sun said the officers kicked and punched Hubbard, knocked him to the ground and then shot him as he pleaded for his life.

"That entire block heard [Hubbard] shouting, `Please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me,' and then we heard a muffled pop," said Kelly D. Brown, who said she saw the incident from less than 10 yards away.

"[The officer] said `If you don't get off that officer, I am going to blow your brains off,' " said another witness, Dana Rhone, 28. "Three seconds later, you heard pop."

Police would not identify witnesses, but said they had talked to more than a dozen by yesterday evening.

Robert W. Weinhold Jr., the department's chief spokesman, said homicide detectives have heard different stories -- some opposing the police version and others "who said they saw a struggle for the gun."

Weinhold told reporters at a headquarters news conference that officials will be honest. "The department understands the community concern and would ask that citizens not rush to judgment before a thorough and credible investigation is completed," he said.

But residents along Barclay Street didn't accept that yesterday. Shouts of "murderers" echoed as a police cruiser sped by the shooting scene. Area residents held a peaceful vigil at the site last night.

Police worked hard yesterday to calm tensions in the neighborhood, and officers who counsel youths who witness violence were dispatched to talk to residents and ease their concerns.

`A lot of hostility'

The Eastern District commander, Maj. James L. Hawkins Jr., visited with community leaders in a closed-door meeting last night.

"We got a lot of hostility," said Sgt. Richard Hite. "But at the same time, we got assurances from community leaders for calm heads to prevail."

The officer who fired his 9mm Glock handgun was identified as Barry W. Hamilton, 55, an eight-year veteran. The officer who was engaged in the apparent struggle is Robert J. Quick Jr., 26, who has been on the force four years. Both plainclothes officers are white and are members of a gun recovery unit. Hubbard is black.

Quick is one of three city officers named in a federal lawsuit filed in March by an East Baltimore man who says he was subjected to "crude racial epithets" during an arrest three years ago for possessing an open container of alcohol.

15th police shooting

Police officials said they placed both officers on administrative duties. Once homicide detectives complete their probe, the case will be turned over to the state's attorney's office, where prosecutors will determine whether to present evidence to a grand jury.

Thursday night's incident was the 15th police shooting this year, and the fourth to result in a death. It comes nearly a month after an officer shot and killed Baltimore resident Mardio House after apparently mistaking a cellular phone for a gun.

The city state's attorney's office said yesterday that it is reviewing that case.

Yesterday, Hubbard's family visited the shooting scene, wept over the spot where the young man had been killed and demanded answers.

"I feel like I am in a nightmare, an endless nightmare," said Hubbard's mother, Deborah C. Carr.

Peddled flowers

Relatives remembered Hubbard, who lived on East 20th Street near where he was shot, as a shy child who enjoyed rap songs and played basketball. He attended Fairmount/Harford High School and had worked for a flower shop on East Chase Street scrubbing floors and pruning flowers in his early teens. He often peddled flowers door-to-door to earn extra cash.

"I think he would have grown up to be a florist," Carr said.

Hubbard was the father of a 2-year-old girl and has another child due next month.

He had been arrested about a dozen times since 1994, though only one conviction could be found last night: a misdemeanor drug charge last year for which he was sentenced to one year in jail. At the time of his death, felony drug and robbery charges were pending against him.

Videotape recovered

Police recovered a surveillance video that scans from a police substation at the corner of Barclay and East 20th streets toward the site of the shooting, less than a block away. Investigators and top police officials reviewed the tape but said it revealed little information. They plan to digitally enhance the footage to get a clearer image.

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