Beating victim detained by police

Man was arrested on warrant linked to light rail allegation

January 10, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

An unusual case took a strange turn yesterday.

A 30-year-old man who was severely beaten Thursday afternoon on a Baltimore street corner was arrested in his hospital room on an outstanding warrant stemming from a 16-month-old charge that he rode the light rail line without a ticket.

Jonathon Dempsey, whose beating has sparked discussion on radio talk shows and prompted a city police investigation, was arrested by Mass Transit Administration police officers at Maryland Shock Trauma Center about 2 p.m. yesterday, officials said.

He was arrested on a warrant issued in March for failing to appear in court in September 1998 on the light rail charge, which carried a $280 fine, according to MTA spokesman Frank Fulton and court documents.

After Dempsey was released from Shock Trauma yesterday, transit police took him to the Central Booking and Intake Center, where he was held last night awaiting a bail hearing, officials said.

"I think it's kind of ironic the [Baltimore] Police Department could not go out and find who did this [to him], but they can pick him up [on] a $1.35 light rail ticket," said his wife, Jennifer Christensen. "It is crazy."

Dempsey had been at Shock Trauma since the beating in the 400 block of Pitman Place. He underwent six hours of surgery Friday for multiple facial fractures, a broken nose, jaw and eye socket.

Dempsey, who is white, said he was attacked by a group of black men. He and his wife have said that a black Baltimore police officer responded to a call for the beating, but refused to investigate.

Baltimore police officials said that an officer received two calls for the incident, but never found the victim. The department will not identify the officer.

Police have launched an internal investigation into the officer's response to the call. After media inquiries Friday, police interviewed Christensen and a police report was filed Saturday.

City police faxed a letter to the Baltimore City Fire Department yesterday morning, requesting to interview the paramedics who treated Dempsey at the scene, a fire official said. Investigators hope to determine if the responding police officer made contact with the victim at the scene, as Dempsey contends, the official said.

Police also are continuing their investigation into the beating, for which they have no suspects and know of no motive.

"The detainment of Mr. Dempsey in no way diminishes the seriousness of his assault," said Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a city police spokesman.

Christensen, who is eight months' pregnant, said she called Dempsey's hospital room yesterday afternoon to see when he was being discharged, but "the officer answered the phone and said they were taking him down to Central Booking."

Fulton said he did not know "how frequent or common it is" to be arrested on a warrant stemming from nonpayment of a light rail fare. "But when you have a warrant out for someone's arrest, we take it seriously," he said.

Fulton said University of Maryland police -- the agency responsible for Shock Trauma -- notified the MTA Saturday of the outstanding warrant. The MTA faxed a request that the agency detain him when he was released from the hospital, he said.

But Jo Martin, director of communications at University of Maryland, Baltimore, said campus police did not notify MTA of the warrant.

"We don't do any kind of criminal checks," Martin said. "The only thing we would do is detain someone."

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