Hubbard autopsy points to struggle

Medical examiner details bruises mouth, neck, groin

October 20, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

An autopsy report shows that Larry Hubbard Jr. was injured during a struggle with Baltimore police before an officer killed him in a shooting that the state medical examiner's office yesterday ruled a homicide.

While lawyers for Hubbard's family say the report bolsters their case against the department, an attorney for Officer Barry W. Hamilton said contradictions between people who witnessed the Oct. 7 shooting in the 2000 block of Barclay St. will help his client.

Autopsy results, dated yesterday and made available to The Sun, show that Hubbard suffered bruises to his mouth, the left side of his neck, the back of his right hand and fingers, and the groin before being shot point-blank in the back of the head.

The report did not say whether the injuries were intentionally inflicted or were sustained in an attempt by Hubbard to take police Officer Robert J. Quick's gun, as police contend.

John E. Smialek, the state's chief medical examiner, ruled Hubbard's death a homicide in a typed, nine-page report. Investigators must determine whether it was first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, excusable homicide or justifiable homicide.

Three witnesses have told The Sun that the partially hand-cuffed Hubbard was grabbed around the neck and kneed in the groin during the incident by one of two police officers.

They said there was no struggle for a gun and Hubbard was killed as he pleaded for his life.

Hamilton's lawyer, police union attorney Henry Belsky, declined to comment on the report, saying he did not want to "try the case in the media."

But A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney for Hubbard's family, said Hubbard's mother saw no visible injuries or bruises when her son left the family's East Baltimore home about an hour before the shooting.

Autopsy results confirm witness accounts, said Pettit.

"It is consistent with eyewitness testimony,," he said, "extremely consistent."

Police spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said city investigators are examining evidence in the case, including Quick's gun and a police substation videotape that might have captured the incident.

"Investigators will be using results of the medical examiner reports to assist them throughout course of the investigation," Weinhold said.

Hubbard was killed after police said he fled from a stolen car. Police said Hamilton shot Hubbard when he tried to seize Quick's gun while the two men wrestled.

But Kathy Beard, 37, of the 400 block of East 20th St., said she was standing 10 feet from the struggle and saw things differently.

"[An officer] was grabbing him by the neck, hitting him in the chest and then turned him around and kneed him," she said Sunday. "Then, he fell on the ground."

Though some witnesses said the officers punched, slapped and kneed Hubbard in the groin, causing him to topple onto Quick, other witnesses said Hamilton grabbed Hubbard's leg, which caused him to fall. They did not recall Hubbard being kneed in the groin.

Yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said that because of Hubbard's death -- which has sparked seven public and private investigations -- he is looking into the use of video cameras with audio in marked and unmarked police cruisers to record interactions between officers and suspects.

"They'll be able to tape all confrontations" and avoid witnesses discrepancies, Schmoke said.

Betsi Griffith, head of the mayor's office on criminal justice, said her office applied for a $670,000 Justice Department grant to install cameras with audio and visual capability in 150 city police cars.

She said they will not hear about the grant until November.

The proposal appears to have support from several quarters, including the police department and mayoral nominees Martin O'Malley and David F. Tufaro.

Weinhold said police were trying to install cameras before Hubbard's death. "The cameras would provide officers with another evidentiary tool while conducting investigations," he said.

The police car video camera is one of the few kinds the American Civil Liberties Union endorses. ACLU officials said protection against police brutality outweighs the slight infringement on personal privacy.

"It deters police from doing things inappropriately," said Dwight Sullivan, a managing attorney with the ACLU of Maryland. "It's been useful in terms of whether officers are racial profiling or engaging in brutality."

Schmoke also said he welcomes a federal probe of the Hubbard shooting, but he expects that federal authorities will allow city police and prosecutors to conclude their case before intervening.

U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia said federal agents are already gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses in the case, including at least two witnesses who refused to talk to city police detectives.

According to the autopsy report, Hamilton fired his gun "next to the clothing" that Hubbard was wearing, charring it.

Hubbard was not under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol, according to the autopsy, but there was a small amount of lidocaine, a sedative often used by dentists, in his system.

The Barclay community plans a candlelight vigil at the shooting site tonight, on what would have been Hubbard's 22nd birthday.

Sun staff writers Ivan Penn and Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 10/20/99

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