Teen pleads innocent in officer's fatal crash

Youth to be rearraigned due to attorney's absence

July 22, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

The West Baltimore teen who authorities say slammed his Bronco into a police car in a high-speed chase in April, killing Officer Kevon Gavin, pleaded innocent yesterday to first-degree murder in the fatal crash.

Wearing denim shorts, a blue striped shirt and Nike sneakers, Eric Darcell Stennett, 17, of the 800 block of Harlem Ave., also pleaded innocent to related charges, including attempted murder, use of a motor vehicle as a deadly weapon, carrying a handgun openly with intent to injure and wearing a bulletproof vest in commission of a crime.

Reports of his wearing the vest led West Baltimore City Councilwoman Catherine E. Pugh to draft legislation in May banning the sale of body armor to youths. Mayor Martin O'Malley signed the bill into law last month.

Stennett's lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit, missed the arraignment because of a death in the family. Because Pettit missed the hearing, a second arraignment hearing was scheduled for Aug. 25. Stennett is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 1. Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Goldberg is slated to try the case.

Stennett will not face the death penalty because state law prevents those under age 18 from being sentenced to death if found guilty.

According to police, Stennett was armed with a semiautomatic handgun and fleeing after officers saw him shoot Antonio Dorsey, 18, near South Pulaski Street and Wilkens Avenue. They said his Ford Bronco reached speeds of more than 80 mph.

Gavin was fatally injured when he tried to head off the Bronco, 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, police said.

Stennett was pulled from his vehicle and hospitalized for a head injury. Gavin, a New York native and father of three, had to be cut from the wreckage and died later after being taken off life support.

Stennett's mother attended the hearing yesterday and later insisted on her son's innocence. She also said she worries whether he'll receive a fair trial.

"I think in dealing with the judicial system, I believe in faith," said the woman, who asked that her name not be used. "All I told my son to do was tell the truth. Don't try to make up stuff, don't try to lie or anything. If you were there, don't make up anything. Just tell the truth about what happened. He has indicated to me that he is not guilty of any of the charges."

Stennett's mother spoke outside the courtroom minutes after her son was led, shackled and handcuffed, back to jail, where he is being held without bond. She acknowledged his troubled past as a juvenile but said he was beginning to turn his life around when he was charged in Gavin's death.

"I don't believe my child shot at anyone, and I don't believe, if he was at the scene of the accident, that he was the driver," his mother said. "I guess it basically doesn't matter what I say. All that matters is what really happened."

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