Speed sought in Hubbard inquiry

Black legislators want shooting case sent to grand jury

October 21, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

Clarification

An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun reported that Sgt. Stephen R. Pagotto was the only city police officer convicted of a fatal shooting in the line of duty. The article did not note that Pagotto's conviction was overturned by the Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court. The state is appealing that ruling to the Court of Appeals, which has not heard arguments.

Maryland's black legislative caucus demanded yesterday that State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy quickly conclude her investigation into the death of Larry Hubbard Jr. and then send the case to a grand jury for a possible criminal indictment.

At a news conference near where Hubbard was killed on Oct. 7, caucus members also urged Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to throw out nominees for the new Police Civilian Review Board and to restart the process. Schmoke, however, countered that the process has been fair, and the candidates were selected just as he told lawmakers they would be.

Caucus members registered their concerns yesterday at the Koinonia Baptist Church on Greenmount Avenue, hours before about 200 people attended a vigil for Hubbard at the site where he was fatally shot.

Vowing Hubbard's death at the hands of two white Baltimore police officers will not be tolerated, caucus members warned Jessamy not to handle the Hubbard inquiry in the same way she handled previous police-involved shootings. Four police shootings this year have resulted in deaths.

"This matter will not be whitewashed," said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat and caucus member.

Several caucus members were joined by attorneys A. Dwight Pettit and William Murphy Jr., who represent Hubbard's family along with Los Angeles lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.

Jessamy's office has repeatedly insisted it would conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and that the Hubbard case would proceed the same as any police-involved shooting.

Police say Officer Barry W. Hamilton shot Hubbard in the back of the head after Hubbard resisted arrest and tried to seize the gun of Officer Robert J. Quick during a violent struggle in the 2000 block of Barclay St.

But witnesses said Hubbard never reached for the gun and that the officers beat, tripped, and then shot him as he pleaded for his life.

On Tuesday, State Medical Examiner John E. Smialek completed Hubbard's autopsy, which concluded he sustained bruises to his mouth, the left side of his neck, the back of the right hand and fingers and the groin before being shot point-blank in the back of the head. But the report did not say whether the injuries were intentionally inflicted or whether they resulted from a struggle for a gun.

Hamilton's boss, Eastern District Police Commander James L. Hawkins, urged people yesterday not to make conclusions until they have reviewed all the evidence.

"[Hamilton] is the kind of person who is diligent and committed to the profession," Hawkins said, noting he has never seen a public complaint against the eight-year veteran during the 22 months he has been his commander. "By picking up the pace of the investigation something will be missed, we need to go at this as fast as an accurate account and interpretation of the evidence will allow."

But Hubbard family lawyers and the city's black legislators are frustrated that previous police shooting probes have proceeded slowly.

Jessamy has not made a decision in the death of Mardio House, who was fatally shot Sept. 10 by plainclothes Baltimore Police Officer Christopher Graul, who apparently mistook House's cellular phone for a gun in East Baltimore.

Only one city police officer, Sgt. Stephen R. Pagotto, has been convicted of a shooting in the line of duty. Pagotto was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in February 1997 and sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Officer Shean D. Camper was acquitted in a 1994 criminal trial, but a jury in a civil trial found in 1996 that the shooting was unjustified and ordered him to pay $111,000 to the slain man's family.

Yesterday, the Black Caucus said it wanted the Hubbard case tried before the city's new Civilian Review Board, a 12-member panel that can subpoena witnesses and make recommendations to the police commissioner.

Democratic state Sen. Ralph M. Hughes, in whose district Hubbard was killed, joined Sens. Joan Carter Conway and Clarence M. Mitchell IV in asking the City Council to delay Schmoke's review board recommendations, essentially crippling the board until the next mayoral term. The group believes Schmoke did not open the nomination application process to all citizens.

But Schmoke said he made appeals to the nine police districts through community groups for people interested in the board -- just as he had told lawmakers he would do.

"I just didn't want to see this process overly politicized," Schmoke said. "I told our state legislators the process I was going to use. I've given people notice about it.

"Nobody has presented to me a fairer, more legitimate process."

Schmoke said the law gives him the authority to appoint the board's members, using police community relations councils.

Sun staff writer Ivan Penn contributed to this article.

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