Family, police grieve for city officer

27-year-old killed in car chase praised for professionalism, caring

April 27, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The morning before Kevon Gavin was killed, the Baltimore police officer dressed in a business suit and successfully testified in court that one of his drug cases should be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Filling three rows of the courtroom was a group of Girl Scouts, learning firsthand about justice. The man Gavin had arrested also was there, shackled at his feet and hands. The 27-year-old officer delivered smooth, professional testimony, and one of his bosses, Lt. Mary E. Eilerman, smiled as she watched from the back.

"I was so proud of him," Eilerman said yesterday, during a viewing at Loudon Park Funeral Home in preparation for Gavin's funeral this morning. The Girl Scouts "really saw a professional at work. I don't know if they know that they saw a hero."

Last week, Gavin became the second city officer to be killed on duty in two months when a teen-ager fleeing police crashed into his cruiser in West Baltimore.

Yesterday, his family -- including his wife, Lisa, grandmother and two uncles -- met with reporters and thanked city residents for expressions of sympathy. He also is survived by three children, Kevon Jr., 15 months; Amber, 8; and Shawn, 5.

"He didn't do things for fanfare," said his uncle, Richard Gavin. "He did what he thought was right. That's what the city should know. He did his job out of the goodness of his heart, because he cared, and he wanted to show the city of Baltimore that he cared."

The six-year veteran died trying to stop a 17-year-old who police say was wearing body armor when he opened fire on a Southwest Baltimore street corner with a 10 mm handgun, wounding a man in the leg, and fleeing in a Ford Bronco.

Eilerman was a passenger in a cruiser trying to catch up to the Bronco on West Lombard Street. The Bronco sped by her car at more than 95 mph before it hit Gavin's cruiser, which was blocking the road at South Gilmor Street about 8 p.m. April 20.

Eilerman said the Bronco's headlights were off, and the vehicle turned slightly to the left, away from an escape route and directly at Gavin's car, and accelerated before impact.

It took firefighters more than an hour to lift the Bronco off the police car and remove Gavin. Eilerman ran to the cruiser and saw Gavin trapped inside.

"I thought I saw a breath," she said. "I hoped I saw a breath."

Gavin died Friday evening after being on life support for more than 20 hours. The driver of the Bronco, Eric Stennett, 17, has been charged with first-degree murder.

A steady stream of officers and friends visited the funeral home on Wilkens Avenue yesterday. Gavin lay in an open coffin in a small chapel, guarded by a police officer and surrounded by floral bouquets -- one in the shape of his Suzuki motorcycle, the other in the shape of a police badge.

Gavin, who grew up in New York and attended one of the city's toughest high schools, had applied to become an officer there. Baltimore hired him first. "He made a big difference in everybody's life," said his grandmother, Martha Gavin.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. at the funeral home, 3620 Wilkens Ave. Burial will be in Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium. Police will close Wilkens Avenue from Southwestern Boulevard to the Baltimore Beltway from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Travelers on the Beltway and Interstate 83 can expect delays as the funeral procession, expected to involve more than 1,000 police vehicles, travels to the cemetery.

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