Police fail to find gun on detainee

Weapon is discovered in lockup

investigation of officers' action begun

March 03, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Two Baltimore police officers who arrested a man on a minor nuisance charge failed to find a loaded gun that was in the suspect's jacket pocket -- a weapon that was discovered by a corrections officer inside the city lockup.

The lapse, which has triggered an internal police investigation of the two officers, could have had dangerous consequences. No one who works inside the sprawling Central Booking and Intake Center on East Monument Street is armed.

"It's a serious breach of security," said LaMont W. Flanagan, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "We have to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Lives are in jeopardy."

Besides missing the Taurus .45-caliber handgun loaded with eight cartridges, the arresting officers also failed to find a magazine containing eight rounds of ammunition in the suspect's back pocket, Flanagan said.

In a similar lapse in 1996, a city officer missed a gun hidden in a prisoner's coat lining. That weapon was not recovered until the prisoner had been held for 49 hours.

Flanagan said he will meet with police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel "to jointly look at this emerging problem and take necessary precautions."

The incident occurred Tuesday when Officer Parker W. Edwards III arrested Eric Renard Forrester, 26, of the 2000 block of Division St. and charged him with consuming alcohol in public -- a misdemeanor that rarely results in jail time.

In his police report, Edwards said he was patrolling Division Street, which he described as an open-air drug market, and arrested a man after seeing him with an open bottle of Steel Reserve beer.

The officer wrote that he searched the prisoner but "with great regret missed the listed weapon."

Forrester was transported in a police van to the booking center by Officer Timothy B. Martin. Department policy requires that arresting and transporting officers search suspects.

The person in custody is supposed to be searched again at the entrance to the booking center, and state prison officials said they are trying to determine whether that was done.

Forrester, in handcuffs, was escorted to the booking floor to be strip-searched.

It was there, an internal report says, that correctional Officer Nathan Colbert discovered the weapon in the front pocket of the man's windbreaker.

In addition to the drinking charge, Forrester was charged with illegal possession of a handgun. He was released on $1,500 bail and has a court hearing next month. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Edwards, an eight-year veteran, and Martin, who has been on the force six years, also could not be reached for comment.

They are assigned to the Central District. Sgt. Scott Rowe, a police spokesman, said they remain on duty during the investigation.

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