Court told crash was intentional

Prosecutors say wreck that killed officer was not an accident

1st-degree murder charge

Judge calls suspect a `threat,' orders him held without bond

April 25, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A teen-ager charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Baltimore police officer accelerated his Ford Bronco to at least 95 mph seconds before his vehicle rammed the officer's cruiser during a pursuit on a city street, court documents filed yesterday show.

Prosecutors used a 10-minute District Court hearing to detail the arrest record of Eric Darcel Stennett, 17, and explain why they believe the crash Thursday night that killed Officer Kevon M. Gavin, 27, was premeditated.

Documents filed at the hearing indicate that Sgt. David Wimmer was behind Stennett's vehicle and "observed the suspect's vehicle begin to accelerate in the direction of Officer Gavin's marked patrol car. At no time did he observe brake lights from the suspect's vehicle or did [the driver] attempt to avoid the collision."

Stennett, who is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, was ordered held without bail yesterday by District Judge Kathleen M. Sweeney. She called him "a threat to public safety" after hearing details about the crash and the youth's lengthy arrest record that began when he was age 13.

The suspect's lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit, promised a vigorous defense to determine whether the crash at West Lombard and South Gilmor streets "was an accident or premeditation."

At the hearing, Pettit argued that most of his client's juvenile history is for drug distribution and minor assaults that did not result in serious injuries.

Portions of the youth's juvenile record were made public at yesterday's hearing. Doreen Brown, who performs background checks on arrestees for the state's pretrial division, told the judge that Stennett faces charges of assault and resisting arrest.

Brown said Stennett's criminal history includes drug distribution and assault in March 1998, drug distribution in April 1998, drug possession in August 1997, destruction of property in March 1997 and assault in 1995.

"His juvenile history has no indication that he failed to appear," Pettit said, hoping to assure the judge that his client would show up for court when scheduled.

The suspect's mother, Margaret Beady, 44, attended yesterday's hearing and kept a close eye on a video monitor showing her son, who was being held at Central Booking and Intake Center.

Stennett, a lanky 6 feet 1 inches tall, wore a white T-shirt and appeared tired as he listened to the charges against him. His left eye was nearly swollen shut -- he suffered head injuries in the crash -- and he frequently buried his head in his hands.

`Nothing to say'

Sweeney asked him repeatedly if he wanted to address the court, but after Pettit advised him to remain silent, Stennett replied: "I ain't got nothing to say."

Minutes before the crash, Stennett is accused of firing nine shots at a crowd at Wilkens Avenue and South Pulaski Street, hitting Antonio Dorsey, 18, who told police he was sitting on the steps of a vacant rowhouse drinking a beer and knew of no reason why he was attacked. He was wounded in the right shin.

Police said Stennett, armed with a 10 mm semiautomatic handgun and wearing body armor, continued to fire at Dorsey as the wounded teen ran away and found a police officer, one of many assigned to the area because of a recent spate of shootings.

Confronted by police, the suspect jumped into a tan 1994 Ford Bronco with tinted windows and sped away, with police in pursuit, court documents said.

Court papers indicate that at one point, Wimmer joined the chase by pulling onto westbound Lombard Street ahead of the speeding Bronco. "The suspect's vehicle then passes the marked patrol car in the left lane at an estimated speed of 95 mph," the documents say.

Gavin's vehicle was broadsided on the driver's side as he blocked West Lombard Street with his patrol car, hoping to slow or divert the Bronco. Police said Gavin left an opening for the Bronco to go around.

Violent impact

The impact sent the two vehicles hurtling 100 feet. It took firefighters more than an hour to pull the truck from the top of the cruiser and extricate Gavin, who died Friday evening.

Acting police Commissioner Edward T. Norris, at a news conference shortly before Gavin died, said the incident should be labeled a homicide, not a car accident. At that point, Gavin was on full life support that doctors said they intended to remove.

Updated funeral arrangements for the six-year veteran assigned to Southwestern District were announced yesterday. Viewings are scheduled at Loudon Park Funeral Home, 3620 Wilkens Ave., from noon to 8: 30 p.m. today and from 11: 30 a.m. to 8: 30 p.m. tomorrow.

Services will be at the funeral home at 11 a.m. Thursday. Interment will follow at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens at 200 E. Padonia Road in Timonium.

The city police union has set up a memorial fund for Gavin's wife, Lisa, and three children: Kevon Jr., 1; Shawn, 5; and Amber, 8. Contributions may be sent to the Devon Gavin Family Fund, 3920 Buena Vista Ave., Baltimore 21211.

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