Police grieve through Web site

Messages blame flawed justice in Prothero's killing

February 17, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang and Dennis O'Brien | Dan Thanh Dang and Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Still grieving over the death of their colleague, Baltimore County police have turned to an unusual outlet -- a Web site -- to vent their outrage and sadness.

In eloquent and sometimes angry messages on the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police site, officers blame Sgt. Bruce A. Proth-ero's death on a flawed justice system in which they say criminals are able to avoid jail time, judges are too lenient and punishment is sometimes too long in coming, even for repeat offenders.

The messages, from retired detectives to young patrol officers, offer a rare glimpse into emotions that are usually kept from public view.

"When all the dust settles and we take a long, hard look at the suspects of this evil crime, a question will surely arise: Why were they even on the streets?" asks Sgt. Randy Brashears in a message posted on the site this week. "And then we need to look at the court actions that have allowed it. Who keeps judges accountable?"

Four suspects have been charged with killing Prothero in a Pikesville jewelry store robbery Feb. 7. All had lengthy criminal records. Two suspects have been arrested. Of the two at large, one escaped home detention after several drug convictions and the other has been in and out of trouble since he was a teen-ager.

Police are searching for two brothers from Baltimore, Wesley John Moore, 24, and 29-year-old Richard Antonio Moore, who is believed to have been the gunman.

"There is no doubt, the length of these four men's record is extremely demoralizing to all the men and women who work in this profession," Cole Weston, president of FOP Lodge 4, which represents the county police, said yesterday. "The fact exists, if the suspects in this crime were incarcerated for all the past crimes they committed, they wouldn't have crossed paths with Sergeant Prothero that day."

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan have scheduled a news conference today to discuss ways the criminal justice system can "deal more effectively with repeat violent offenders," said Bill Toohey, a police spokesman.

City and county court records show that all four suspects -- including Troy White, 23, and Donald Antonio White, 29, who were arrested and charged with first-degree murder last week -- have been repeatedly convicted of offenses ranging from drug distribution to handgun violations.

The records show that in many cases, charges were dismissed or the defendants got suspended sentences.

That prompted criticism from officers on the FOP Web site.

A Baltimore County officer who patrols the west side was angered by the number of charges against Richard Moore that were placed on the inactive docket (stetted) or not prosecuted (nolle prossed).

"Stet, nolle pros, stet, nolle pros -- that's all I ever see anymore. If he was where he belonged, we might still have our brother with us," the officer wrote.

The site also includes general criticism from an Essex precinct officer who asks: "I wonder what are these people still doing out in public? If the system would do [its] job & put these habitual offenders behind bars maybe Brother Bruce would be here today."

Police say the criminal histories of the two suspects who are at large show why officers are angry.

In the late 1980s, Richard Moore was convicted of theft three times and given jail terms that should have kept him imprisoned into the early 1990s. He didn't serve the full sentences and in July 1989 was convicted of manufacturing drugs and possession of a handgun.

By 1996, he had been convicted of beating up his girlfriend, car theft and drug violations for which he received a total of three years in prison and was put on three years of unsupervised probation. Again he was released early, and in 1998 he was convicted of possession with intent to distribute crack and sentenced to two years.

He was released from prison Jan. 5 this year and put on home detention. Six days later, a warrant for his arrest was issued after he allegedly left home detention.

His brother, Wesley John Moore, was charged as an adult with first-degree attempted murder and handgun violations at age 16, but the case was transferred to juvenile court Oct. 15, 1991.

Two years later, he was charged with selling $20 worth of cocaine to an undercover county police officer. He was placed on five years of supervised probation, but was charged with violating the terms after being arrested on drug charges in 1995. He was given a five-year suspended sentence and allowed to continue living with his mother if he found a job and began working toward a general equivalency degree.

That same year, city police charged him with a handgun violation. He was found not guilty.

Sun staff writer Nancy A. Youssef contributed to this article.

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