Hands-on police chief has hand in 2nd arrest

Daniel calls in backup when he's approached on street by drug suspect

February 06, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

For the second time in 10 days, Baltimore's top police officer has been involved in the arrest of a drug suspect -- demonstrating that his stern anti-crime strategy is for real and that those in the drug trade aren't very discerning.

Yesterday morning, Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel called for backup when, police say, Steven Lewis Jupiter of the 1000 block of McKean Ave. tried to sell him suspected marijuana.

"I had emergency police lights mounted on the dash of my car, and any idiot could have looked and saw I was a police officer," said Daniel, who was taking a nostalgic tour of his boyhood West Baltimore neighborhood.

Daniel -- who has made clearing Baltimore's drug-dealing corners a top priority -- said he was headed toward his boyhood home on North Payson Street to check on former neighbors.

When he approached West Lanvale and Payson streets, a man, later identified as Jupiter, 39, stepped toward Daniel's unmarked police car, squeezed his thumb and one finger together and put them to his lips.

"It is a motion putting hands to lips indicating, `I have marijuana do you want to buy some?' " Daniel said. "I have seen that signal 500 times on that particular corner."

Daniel pulled over, called the Western District precinct for backup and watched the suspect fumble with a brown paper bag as he continued flagging passing vehicles.

Two Western District police officers, Timothy Stach and Sgt. Tony Restivo, arrived within minutes, spotted the suspect and approached him.

"When the commissioner sees something, you feel the pressure to make sure you try to catch the individual," Stach said. "Immediately."

With Daniel looking on, Stach said, the suspect threw a small plastic bag, containing about $10 worth of suspected marijuana, onto the ground and was arrested. Stach said he found four more bags of suspected marijuana when he searched Jupiter.

Daniel, dressed in a business suit, then congratulated the officers and lectured the suspect about selling drugs a half block from his former home.

"I told him I did not appreciate him selling drugs in my old neighborhood. I did not ever want him selling drugs in my old neighborhood again," Daniel said.

Jupiter was charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs and possession of drugs with intent to distribute.

Daniel, who previously said he was "embarrassed" because his former neighborhood has deteriorated with nightly gunbattles and blatant drug dealing, vowed he will continue to scour the neighborhood -- and the city -- for criminals.

Jupiter is on parole for a 1997 burglary charge, and Daniel said he planned to notify Jupiter's parole agent of the arrest tomorrow.Jupiter has been arrested on various drug charges two other times since 1993, according to court records.

Although Daniel was not the arresting officer -- as he was Jan. 25 when he arrested a Hampstead man suspected of buying cocaine in Northwest Baltimore during a snowstorm -- Stach said Daniel will have to appear in court as a witness.

"Going to court is good," Daniel said. "I get to see how the state's attorney office works and how police officers testify."

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