Sergeant found negligent in blocking aid for boy

Officer will contest finding, lawyer says

September 30, 2000|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A veteran Baltimore police sergeant has been found negligent by the department for blocking a firefighter from rendering medical aid to a mortally wounded 15-year-old shooting victim last year.

Sgt. John N. Sturgeon Sr., who has been on the force 27 years, is facing a one-day loss of leave or vacation and a letter of reprimand in his personnel file - punishment the victim's mother called too lenient.

The sergeant's lawyer said his client is innocent and will fight the charges at an administrative trial board hearing, a date for which has not been scheduled.

The mother of the shooting victim, Darien Ward, who died at the scene, said she is pleased only that some officials have recognized her complaint as legitimate.

A passer-by found her son lying in snow Jan. 8, 1999, near Belair Road and Seidel Avenue in Northeast Baltimore.

Sturgeon was one of the supervisors at the scene, which was secured with yellow crime scene tape. Department officials said he would not let a firefighter into the area because he believed Ward was already dead and he wanted to preserve the shooting scene.

The delay lasted about 11 minutes - from 9:59 p.m., when the first firetruck arrived, to 10:10 p.m., when a paramedic was allowed in and pronounced Ward dead.

Complaints by the victim's family, who lived about 10 blocks from the shooting scene, and firefighters sparked an internal investigation, which concluded this week. The Police Department's chief legal counsel, Sean Malone, wrote to Ward's parents and expressed regret over the killing.

"I am saddened by the death of Darien, and I feel great sorrow for his family and friends," Malone wrote. He then described two administrative charges against Sturgeon: neglect of duty and misconduct for terse language directed at the firefighter.

"Something could have been done," said Beverly Ward, the victim's mother. "At least the officer could have tried to let them work on him."

Police and fire officials said at the time of Ward's death that he was so badly wounded he was most likely dead moments after he was shot - at least 15 minutes before the first officer was notified of the incident.

Yesterday, Sturgeon's lawyer, Michael Davey, said the state medical examiner's office has concluded that Ward's injuries were fatal. "No amount of medical assistance would have saved his life," Dr. David Fowler concluded in an autopsy report.

Davies said Sturgeon "did not deny medical aid to this victim in any way." He attributed the dispute to a misunderstanding.

Officer Gary McLhinney, the police union president, called the department's investigation tainted and said officials "will be embarrassed when this case is brought forward." He would not elaborate. .

Ward's mother said she can't help but feel that not everything possible was done to save her child, a freshman at Patterson Park High School who earned straight A's and was on the football team. Police said he had had no scrapes with the law.

Police said he was shot in the legs and back during a botched robbery after returning from renting a game at a video store. No arrest has been made in the killing.

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