Arrest task force urged

City, county propose group to tackle warrants backlog

February 15, 2000|By David Nitkin and Nancy A. Youssef | David Nitkin and Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

The top elected officials in Baltimore city and county proposed a more aggressive approach to tracking down suspected criminals yesterday -- an issue brought into sharp focus after last week's fatal shooting of a Baltimore County police sergeant.

As police enlisted the FBI in their widening search for two remaining suspects in the shooting of Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero, Mayor Martin O'Malley and Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger asked for $5.9 million in state funds to create a joint task force to tackle a nagging backlog of arrest warrants.

The city and county have a combined backlog of about 61,000 warrants, a figure that until last week included two of the four suspects in the Prothero shooting. The 35-year-old officer was killed Feb. 7 during a robbery at a Pikesville jewelry store where he was working off-duty to help support his wife and five young children.

Richard Antonio Moore, 29, of the 2700 block of The Alameda, charged with first-degree murder in the Prothero shooting, escaped from home detention from a drug charge Jan. 11. Police are looking for him, and are concerned he may have left the state.

Donald Antonio White, 19, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in connection with Prothero's death. He was arrested at the Central Booking and Intake Center in Baltimore, where he was being held for failing to appear in court last fall on two counts of attempted first-degree murder. Court records show he had two other outstanding warrants.

Also being sought on a charge of first-degree murder in the case is Richard Moore's brother, Wesley John Moore, 24, of the 2000 block of E. Fayette St. A fourth suspect, Troy White, 23, was arrested last week in the 1000 block of N. Ellamont St.

A warrants task force, O'Malley said, "will enable us to go after the most-wanted violent offenders who otherwise will commit crimes of violence time and time again if they are not apprehended."

"There is no single effort that could yield more positive life-saving results as quickly as this effort can," he said at a joint news conference at the Drumcastle Center on the city-county line along York Road.

City and county officials originally had planned to unveil their warrants initiative last month, but the announcement was canceled because of snow.

The task-force plan was not immediately embraced by Gov. Parris N. Glendening's office.

The city and the county have asked for hundreds of millions of dollars in state money this year, said Michael Morrill, a spokesman for the governor. While Maryland has a budget surplus approaching $1 billion, not every wish can be granted, Morrill said.

"If we funded everything on their two lists, it would eat up a third of the budget surplus," he said.

To further the crackdown, Ruppersberger and O'Malley also proposed that the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration connect to a state database of arrest warrants. A suspect could not get a driver's license renewed or a car registered if an outstanding warrant were found, a prohibition similar to a program that tracks parents who owe child support payments.

"Nearly everyone drives," said Ruppersberger. "We know this will be an effective way to catch up with people trying to elude the law."

A spokesman for the MVA said that while the agency was "intrigued by the concept of the bill," it had concerns about the reaction of motorists told they couldn't renew their licenses.

"Who's to say that this gentleman or woman is not a crazed lunatic who would not create a disturbance or even open fire in an MVA office?" said Richard M. Scher, an MVA spokesman.

In other developments in the Prothero investigation yesterday, county police formally asked for the FBI's help, a move that offers additional resources in case the two remaining suspects have left the state.

County police spokesman Bill Toohey said police "have no indication that [the suspects] have gone somewhere else. But in case they have, this is a very useful tool."

In an interview yesterday, the Moores' mother -- Mary Moore of Essex -- said she had not heard from her sons in three weeks.

She said she called Wesley Moore the day before the Super Bowl to find out if he was attending a birthday party, and that Richard called three weeks ago "just to see how I was doing."

Moore said she learned about the charges against her sons on television. She issued a statement Friday through police to her sons, pleading for them to surrender.

"I am scared for my children. I was shocked. I was devastated," Moore said yesterday. "The only way I will know [if they were involved in the robbery and shooting] is when I talk to them."

Sun staff writer Eric Siegel contributed to this article.

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