Teen facing murder charges

17-year-old in chase that resulted in death of officer, police say

April 23, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

As relatives remembered Officer Kevon M. Gavin yesterday as "the essence of a family man," police charged a 17-year-old Baltimore youth with first-degree murder in connection with his death.

Eric Stennett of the 800 block of Harlem Ave. was released from Maryland Shock Trauma Center yesterday and was taken to Central Booking and Intake Center after being charged last night, said Sgt. Scott Rowe, a police spokesman.

Police said Stennett, wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with a semiautomatic handgun, was fleeingafter officers allegedly saw him shoot an 18-year-old man near South Pulaski Street and Wilkens Avenue in Southwest Baltimore. They said Stennett reached speeds of more than 80 mph in his Ford Bronco in an effort to escape.

Gavin was fatally injured when he attempted to head off the Bronco by using his car to block part of West Lombard Street. The Bronco plowed into the police cruiser near Gilmor Street, pushing it more than 100 feet, Rowe said.

Rowe said that homicide detectives, after consulting with the state's attorney's office, decided to file first-degree murder charges because they felt the driver "made no attempt to [avoid] striking the officer's vehicle."

Stennett was also charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and a handgun violation, authorities said.

Gavin, a New York native and father of three, died Friday evening after being taken off life support. His family and friends gathered at a relative's home near Glen Burnie yesterday after making funeral arrangements for Gavin, the 101st Baltimore police officer to die in the line of duty since 1870.

"He was the kind of guy who would take your children to the movies and pick someone else's kids up from school," said cousin Shaun Gavin, 32. "Despite all the children that go wrong in his area of New York, he always chose to do right."

When Gavin graduated from one of New York's toughest high schools in 1990, he had two options, family members said.

He could join the Navy and escape a crack epidemic that was engulfing his neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Or he could continue working at local fast-food restaurants, earning money to care for a mother suffering from multiple sclerosis, and mentoring a younger brother who was trying to avoid the mean streets.

Gavin's father did not live in the family's three-story home, so Gavin also served as caregiver for his mother, who could not walk or talk.

Gavin decided his family would benefit most from a Navy salary and federal medical benefits, relatives said.

"He just thought he could be more help to his mother if he had a steady job with medical benefits that could also assist her," said Shaun Gavin, a sergeant in the Baltimore County Bureau of Corrections.

When Kevon Gavin left Brooklyn to be a radio specialist on a Naval cruiser during the Persian Gulf wr, he promised his younger brother, Michael, and his mother that he would be back to rescue them from the poverty and crime and drugs.

But his mother died in 1991 at the age of 38, family members said yesterday, so Kevon Gavin joined the Baltimore Police Department when he left the Navy in 1994.

Law enforcement was a familiar occupation for the Gavin family. His uncle was a New York City officer -- he served in New York for a time under Edward T. Norris, now Baltimore's acting police commissioner. Relatives said yesterday Gavin decided to become a police officer because he felt he "could make a difference" in a community facing the same problems as his old neighborhood.

Gavin briefly left the Baltimore department to take a higher-paying job as a Prince George's County officer. But over his family's objections, Gavin told them he wanted to return to the streets of the city.

"He said he did not think he was making a difference; he felt he could have a greater impact on the lives of people in the communities of Baltimore City," Shaun Gavin said.

When Kevon Gavin returned to Baltimore, he arranged for his brother Michael to leave New York and come live with him in Maryland. Michael was one of several Brooklyn relatives Kevon Gavin urged to leave New York and seek a better life elsewhere, the family said.

"[My brother] had a big impact on my life and its direction. He made me more goal-oriented and taught me how to make the right decisions in life," said Michael Gavin, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla.

In July 1999, Kevon Gavin married Lisa Dorsey. The couple had a 1-year-old son, Kevon Jr., and Gavin was stepfather of an 8-year-old daughter, Amber, and a son, Shawn, who was to have celebrated his 5th birthday today at a party at a Chuck E Cheese's on Ritchie Highway.

The Gavins had planned a July trip to Disney World for a family vacation and honeymoon, Lisa Gavin said yesterday.

The family completed funeral arrangements yesterday. A public viewing will be held from 12: 30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Loudon Park Funeral Home in the 3600 block of Wilkens Ave. The funeral will be held Thursday at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.

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