Private security guard charged

Police say he pointed handgun at head of shackled suspect

Company fires him

Incident reportedly occurred as he escorted arrested man to court

January 12, 2000|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A private security guard has been charged with assault, accused of pointing a handgun at the head of a shackled and unarmed suspect who was being escorted to the District Court building in Ellicott City.

The guard, Mark A. Brown, 29, who was convicted in 1989 of a battery charge, could not be reached to comment on the November incident.

Brown was employed by Wackenhut Corp., a worldwide private security firm that has been hired to take suspects from the Howard County police station to District Court in Ellicott City and the Detention Center in Jessup.

A Wackenhut spokesman said yesterday that Brown was fired after the company learned of the charge.

The spokesman, Patrick Connan, could not explain why the company hired Brown, who was convicted of battery and destruction of property in 1989, according to court records. Brown was also charged with false imprisonment and battery in 1996; those charges were dropped.

"We do a background check," Connan said. "If a felony appeared on his background check, he would have been disqualified."

Battery and destruction of property are misdemeanors. State police said yesterday that under state law Brown was allowed to purchase and own a handgun.

On Nov. 11, Brown and another security guard drove a 19-year-old Laurel man and several other suspects to the courthouse from the Southern District station in Scaggsville, police said.

The man, Steven M. Harim, told police that Brown pointed a gun at his head, according to court records.

Harim said yesterday that Brown might have been upset with him because he was banging on his holding cell asking for water before his appearance before Nancy Pope, a District Court commissioner.

"I might have given him a dirty look," Harim said. "I was thirsty."

Harim also said that Brown seemed annoyed because he was walking slowly with his feet shackled. Harim then turned around, he said, and noticed the gun pointed at his face.

"He could have fallen down or something and shot me," said Harim, who was charged with possession of marijuana. "I would rather him punch me in the face than pull a gun on me."

Harim said he told the court commissioner about the gun incident and she gave him a phone number to call.

A few days later, Harim said, he called police and told them his story. He also gave them the names of two witnesses -- who police said verified his story -- and said he was surprised that the security guard was arrested and charged.

"I didn't think anything would happen with it," Harim said. "The officer was like, `Oh, yeah, that happened.' "

The other security guard also reported the incident to his superiors, the Wackenhut spokesman said, and they called authorities.

Howard County prosecutors declined to say yesterday whether they would seek an indictment in the case.

Howard County police said yesterday they have not had any other complaints about Wackenhut guards.

Harim was arrested early Nov. 11 when a car in which he was a passenger was pulled over by a Howard County police officer. The officer charged the car's driver with driving while intoxicated, police said.

When the officer searched the car, he found what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette in a compartment below the car's radio, police said.

Harim was sitting in the back seat, police said.

He says the experience has clouded his perception of Howard County. "I don't cross that [county] line anymore," he said.

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