Police say suspect provoked shooting

Man reportedly told officers to shoot him before fatal encounter

March 21, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A car-theft suspect shot and killed by a Baltimore police officer Monday reportedly yelled, "You're going to have to shoot me," moments before an officer pulled the trigger, a department spokesman said yesterday.

Police identified the man yesterday as Dwayne Burke, 36, of Randallstown, who had a lengthy arrest record and was convicted of holding up a Royal Farms store two years ago.

The Northwestern District policeman who fired his weapon, Officer Stephen A. Coughlan, 32, has been placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation. Coughlan wounded an unarmed robbery suspect in 1992; that shooting was ruled justified by prosecutors.

At least five officers confronted Burke about 1:45 p.m. after spotting a stolen Honda Civic at Park Heights Avenue and West Cold Spring Lane and briefly chasing it to the 4400 block of Towanda Ave., department spokesman Kevin J. Enright said.

Police said Burke ran from the car to a dirt alley next to a church parking lot, less than a block away.

Burke told officers that he had a gun, refused to take both hands out of his jacket pocket and was shot after he pushed the fingers of both hands outward, as if he had a firearm, Enright said.

It was only after Burke fell to the ground from two gunshots to the abdomen that officers discovered he did not have a gun. Underneath his body, police said they found a sharp metal object with a taped handle -- described as a makeshift device used for breaking into cars.

His reported statements, Enright said, have been confirmed by the officers and several civilian witnesses -- none of whom could be reached for comment yesterday.

Burke's mother, Shirley Lucille Lester, 54, who lives in Randallstown, said she only knows what happened to her son from watching television news.

"I'm trying to find out what happened before I make a statement about what the police did," Lester said yesterday. "I don't know nothing."

The Honda driven by Burke on Monday had been stolen at gunpoint Oct. 26 in the 6500 block of Reisterstown Road, though police have not linked him to the carjacking.

Homicide detectives were investigating Monday's shooting yesterday and had not yet turned their file over to the state's attorney's office, where prosecutors will review the case and decide whether to convene a grand jury to consider if the officer's actions were justified.

The earlier shooting involving Coughlan occurred Dec. 2, 1992, when the officer was on patrol in Northwest Baltimore, and a woman with a ripped jacket stopped him in the 4900 block of Litchfield Ave. She reported being the victim of an armed robbery and assault.

Records show that Coughlan drove her around the neighborhood, and that she identified Robert Dan Harrison, then 19, as her attacker.

Coughlan confronted Harrison, who refused to get on the ground and then reached into his waistband, Enright said. Coughlan fired once, hitting him in the abdomen. Harrison, who was not charged, recovered from his wound, the spokesman said.

The woman had apparently made up the story about being robbed and was convicted of filing a false report, Enright said. Coughlan's shooting was ruled justified by both internal investigators and prosecutors, he said.

Burke's criminal record includes eight arrests dating back to 1982. He was convicted twice: for misdemeanor theft in 1987, for which he served 12 days in jail, and armed robbery two years ago, for which he was sentenced to three years in prison, with all but two years, 9 months and 11 days suspended.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.