FBI probe continues for officers in shooting

Grand jury's ruling not a factor, officials say

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

A grand jury has cleared two Baltimore police officers in the death of Larry Hubbard, but federal officials are pressing ahead with their inquiry.

The FBI has been looking into Hubbard's death since Oct. 12, five days after the unarmed 21-year-old black man was shot in the back of the head during a struggle with two officers in East Baltimore's Barclay neighborhood.

A Hubbard family lawyer expressed doubt that a federal prosecution will result, but FBI spokesman Peter A. Gulotta Jr. said the grand jury decision announced Tuesday has no bearing on a federal investigation. Still, he predicted it could be months before there is an outcome.

"Right now, it is still pending," Gulotta said. "We are working on it, and we have put it on a high priority, but there are circumstances that prevent us from turning this around quickly."

Gulotta would not comment on specifics of the investigation, but said the FBI will turn its findings over to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Representatives of both agencies said they consider the Hubbard investigation open.

After reviewing the evidence, either agency could file federal civil rights charges against Officer Barry W. Hamilton and Robert J. Quick.

Such charges were used to indict, try and convict two Los Angeles policemen in the beating of motorist Rodney King in 1992 after they were found not guilty by a local jury the year before.

Gulotta said federal prosecutions are rare and follow an exhaustive examination of the evidence. Of the approximately 3,000 investigations launched nationwide each year, about 60 are presented to a federal grand jury. The grand jury returns an indictment in only about 60 percent of those cases, according to the Justice Department.

Prosecutors have to prove officers intentionally deprived a victim of his civil rights - serving as police, judge and jury - in the midst of an arrest.

"I don't really foresee nor do I expect a prosecution," said A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney representing Hubbard's family, which filed a $60 million wrongful death suit against the city, state and the officers last week . "I don't think the U.S. attorney will do it, I never thought the state's attorney would do it, and I have hopes that the attorney general will do it. But I think in the end we are going to have to do it ourselves."

Police said Hubbard had fled from a stolen car, and Hamilton shot him after he tried to grab Quick's gun while resisting arrest. Several witnesses said the officers beat Hubbard and then shot him as he pleaded for his life.

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