Daniel defends shooting by police

2 officers `had duty to protect public, themselves,' he says

January 16, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Ronald L. Daniel defended yesterday the first fatal police shooting of his tenure as Baltimore police commissioner, which occurred Friday night in West Baltimore.

Timothy J. Stach, an officer in the Western District, has been placed on administrative leave, pending the investigation of the shooting of James Edward Black Jr., 27, of the 900 block of Rosedale St.

Stach and fellow Western District Officer Christopher Fowler pursued Black and another man while investigating what they believed to be a drug deal in Harlem Park. Police did not release the identity of the other man, whom they were questioning at police headquarters last night.

"My understanding of the events that occurred last night indicates the two officers acted appropriately and within their scope of authority," Daniel said yesterday.

"They had a duty to protect the public and themselves, and I believe they did just that," said Daniel, who was sworn in as police commissioner under Mayor Martin O'Malley a month ago. "Any sudden, unexpected loss of human life is cause for concern."

Daniel said several civilian witnesses corroborated his officers' accounts.

According to police, the officers saw a man approach a Nissan Pathfinder parked in the 1200 block of Harlem Ave. at 10: 30 p.m. Friday.

As officers attempted to question a pedestrian who stood near the sport utility vehicle, it took off with two occupants. The vehicle was pursued by officers for six blocks to the 800 block of W. Lexington St., where the driver attempted to turn into an alley blocked by a car and a barrier.

One of the men in the vehicle fired a round toward the officers, Daniel said. The two men then fled the Pathfinder.

One officer returned fire, striking the Pathfinder's fender. Fowler chased the driver and subdued him. Stach ran toward the passenger, who held a handgun. Stach then fired multiple shots, Daniel said.

Black was pronounced dead Friday night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He had been convicted previously on drug-related charges, according to court records.

A 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was recovered in the alley between the 800 blocks of Lexington and Vine streets, police said.

"I spent a time this afternoon speaking with the victim's mother," Daniel said. "I want people to understand there has to be sensitivity and balance. I support my officers, but I have concerns for a grieving mother. I expressed condolences at her loss."

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