Officer claims probes unfair

His rights have been lost in post-shooting events, Hamilton says

Statement is first issued

October 31, 1999|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore police officer who is the focus of seven different investigations for the shooting death of Larry Hubbard says his rights are being trampled in the process.

Officer Barry W. Hamilton, who shot Hubbard Oct. 7 after, police said, he fled from a suspected stolen car and resisted arrest, said he is not being afforded the same rights that he is required to guarantee suspects.

In a prepared statement, his first public comments since the shooting, Hamilton said that as a police officer, his job "is to dispense equal justice under the law" while being careful not to violate a suspect's rights, including not searching them and invading their privacy without probable cause.

"EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW -- I DON'T THINK SO!" read the statement, given to The Sun Thursday by Hamilton's lawyer, Henry Belsky.

Hamilton also maintains that he is being unfairly investigated because he is white. Hubbard was black.

"I am criticized for my race, my looks, my profession," said Hamilton. Residents of the Barclay neighborhood he patrols, and where the shooting took place, have compared Hamilton -- both in looks and tactics -- to the movie detective "Dirty Harry," a character portrayed by Clint Eastwood.

But top police officials yesterday denied that they have run roughshod over Hamilton's rights.

"In all cases, the detectives and Baltimore Police Department respect the constitutional rights and civil rights of everyone involved," said Col. John E. Gavrilis, head of the criminal investigations bureau.

Reaction from an attorney representing Hubbard's family was more pointed.

"We have to ask ourselves what constitutional rights Mr. Hubbard was advised of before he was shot," said A. Dwight Pettit. "Was he advised of any, or was he tried, convicted and executed on the street?"

Hubbard was shot in the back of the head during a struggle in the 2000 block of Barclay St. with Hamilton's partner, Officer Robert J. Quick, who is also white. Police said Hubbard fell on top of Quick and grabbed the officer's gun, causing it to lodge between their bodies. Hamilton, who was standing over the two men, then fired one shot, striking Hubbard.

But several witnesses offered a different version of events. They said the officers beat Hubbard and Hamilton shot him as he pleaded for his life.

Hubbard suffered bruises to his neck, hand and groin and Quick received abrasions to his thumb and elbow, and bite marks to his right arm, during the struggle, according to autopsy results and police incident reports.

After a public outcry, seven public and private investigations were launched into the shooting. Separate probes are being conducted by Baltimore homicide detectives; police internal investigation officers; the state's attorney's office; the Justice Department's civil rights division; the FBI; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and attorneys for the Hubbard family.

Investigators were hoping that a video camera on a nearby police substation would have captured the event and clarified the conflicting accounts. When viewed, however, the videotape did not appear to show the shooting, and police sent it to the U.S. Secret Service for enhancement.

Yesterday, Gavrilis said the Secret Service has completed its enhancement, but he would not comment on what, if anything, it shows. Another officer, however, said the tape did not show the struggle, even after being enhanced.

On Friday, lawyers representing Hubbard's family -- Pettit, William H. Murphy Jr. and Johnnie Cochran -- notified the City Solicitor's office that they plan to file a wrongful-death civil suit against Hamilton, Quick and the Baltimore Police Department.

Pettit said yesterday the suit would likely be filed within 10 days and seek more than $10 million -- possibly as much as $20 million -- in damages.

"The money is not the issue," Pettit said. "Justice is the issue."

Hamilton mentioned Hubbard's family lawyers in his statement, saying, "I am being investigated by a herd of attorneys who are seeking to get [a] monetary award out of my backside."

Belsky, a Fraternal Order of Police lawyer representing Hamilton, said he believes the investigations are affecting the officer.

"He is frightened for his family and frightened for other officers who have to face what he is now facing," he said.

Belsky also said Hamilton is concerned for Quick's mental state.

Hamilton, a 55-year-old Army veteran and father of two children, joined the police force in 1991. He and Quick are members of an elite eight-man gun-recovery squad that canvasses streets in search of weapons. In September, Hamilton was Eastern District's "Officer of the Month" after he seized 19 guns and made 10 gun and 30 drug arrests in 20 days.

The gun squad is directly responsible for a 13.5 percent reduction in Eastern District violent crime this year over last year, said Maj. James L. Hawkins, commander of the Eastern District.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.