A 21-year-old Navy petty officer was charged with child abuse and assault yesterday in connection with the death of his 3-year-old son, authorities said.
Rodney Lamar Dickerson Jr. died Sunday night, police said. His father, Petty Officer 2nd class Rodney L. Dickerson, is accused of beating the toddler as punishment for running in their Laurel apartment, according to a statement of charges filed with a District Court commissioner yesterday by Anne Arundel County police. Dickerson was taken into custody at 6 a.m. yesterday at his apartment in the 3400 block of Andrew Court, police said.
Dickerson's girlfriend called 911 about 5:20 p.m. Sunday, saying the boy had turned pale and was "breathing shallowly," police said. The boy had no pulse and was not breathing when paramedics arrived minutes later. He was pronounced dead at Laurel Regional Hospital.
Police said an examination of his body showed several bruises, and detectives were called to investigate a possible homicide.
Results of an autopsy by the state medical examiner's office were not divulged yesterday, and police planned to meet with the state's attorney's office today to determine whether additional charges will be filed, said Officer Charles Ravenell, a police spokesman.
Dickerson was charged with two counts of abuse -- one stemming from the call Sunday and the other from an incident two weeks earlier in which the boy had been struck so severely that the blow left a handprint on his face, according to the charging documents.
Police said Dickerson and his girlfriend, who was not charged, spoke about the earlier incident during questioning by detectives.
The boy had been visiting his father, police said. His mother, who lives in Louisiana, asked after being informed of his death that her name not be released, police said.
Yesterday, the Navy declared Dickerson to be on unauthorized absence because of the arrest.
Last night, a court commissioner ordered him held at the county Detention Center in Annapolis on a $500,000 cash bond.
Dickerson sat in front of the commissioner during a brief hearing, answering routine questions about his address and employment, and his understanding of the charges.