2 brothers suspected in officer's death have lengthy criminal records

Leaders, police criticize sentences as too lenient

February 20, 2000|By Dan Thanh Dang and Dennis O'Brien | Dan Thanh Dang and Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Since they were teen-agers, Richard Antonio Moore and his brother, Wesley John Moore, have led the lives of petty criminals.

They sold drugs, carried guns and made life so miserable for their neighbors that they were banned from the rundown Baltimore County apartment complexes where they hung out.

In short, the Moores were no different from thousands of young criminals who pass through the court system each year.

"They were arrogant. Their attitude was, `Go ahead, do what you have to do. You're just wasting your time. You're never going to catch me,' " recalls James Holt-haus, a retired county police officer who patrolled the Essex area for 20 years.

The brothers were arrested in Philadelphia yesterday, ending a manhunt that began Feb. 7 when an off-duty Baltimore County police officer was shot and killed in a robbery at a Pikesville jewelry store.

Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero was gunned down as he chased four suspects from J. Brown Jewelers. Two other suspects have been arrested in the slaying and are being held without bond. All four men are charged with first-degree murder.

The Moore family has declined repeated requests for interviews, but court records and police interviews show that the brothers' criminal activities began in their teens with drug charges and escalated.

Wesley Moore, now 24, used a handgun to settle a fistfight when he was 16.

Richard Moore, 29, who is suspected of shooting Prothero, beat his girlfriend twice when he was 21, one of the earliest cases filed against him as an adult. He then refused to go to court-ordered domestic abuse counseling.

In both cases, the Moores avoided jail sentences, beginning a pattern of punishment that many police officers, political leaders and other critics call far too lenient.

"The criminal justice system is not working merely because of the fact that these guys were still out on the street," says Sgt. David Folderauer, secretary for the county Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, which represents the department's officers.

Lawyers and police familiar with the Moores say nothing distinguished them from other defendants. They were nickel-and-dime drug dealers, police said, who brazenly roamed the community and weren't intimidated by the threat of going to court.

Court records show that Richard Moore was given a three-year suspended sentence after he was charged with two counts of battery for beating his girlfriend in early 1992 at the Circle Terrace Apartments, a Lansdowne complex where neighbors say he was known to carry a handgun.

He was arrested two years later for violating a written order by apartment management that required him to stay away from the 300-unit complex because of several drug convictions.

"It happens sometimes, you have people who don't live here but maybe stay with a relative and cause trouble," says Henry F. Johnson, a manager at the complex.

Younger brother Wesley's troubles began in 1991 when he was a student at Perry Hall High School.

Court records show that he was accused of taking a handgun from his home in what was then called Tidewater Village and firing shots at someone who had bloodied his nose. The attempted-murder charges were transferred to Juvenile Court, and Wesley Moore was back in Tidewater two years later.

Tidewater, where Wesley Moore lived with his mother, was a working-class community with 900 apartments known for its drug activity and transient population in the early 1990s. A $4.5 million renovation in 1998 included razing 435 of the apartments and changing the name to Whispering Woods.

In 1994, Wesley Moore was given a five-year suspended sentence after he was arrested for selling $20 worth of cocaine to an undercover county police officer in Tidewater, court records show.

He was rearrested by city police in 1995 on drug and gun charges and was allowed to continue living with his mother, Mary Moore, after city prosecutors decided not to pursue those charges, the records show. He also was arrested in 1996 on a gun charge but was found not guilty.

As a result of these arrests, Wesley Moore's probation was extended through September 2000. But a state investigation has found that he has had no supervision for nearly the past two years.

Banned from complex

Flagship Security Service, a Columbia-based company that patrols the Tidewater area, included Wesley Moore on a list of 600 offenders barred from the complex.

"They kept popping him for trespassing," recalls Officer Bryn Blackburn, a 13-year veteran of the Essex precinct. "He had a girlfriend there he visited often. The security would spot him, and sometimes he'd run from them. Sometimes, they'd catch him, and then we'd have to come and lock him up.

"He was a little mouthy from what I can remember, but never violent to us."

The Moore brothers met two men with similar backgrounds. Troy White, 25, and Donald Antonio White, 19 (not related) -- both arrested and charged in the Prothero shooting -- also have long criminal histories.

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