Two businessmen indicted in intruder's shooting death

Charges arise from warehouse shooting

November 30, 2001|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

Two businessmen accused of shooting to death an intruder who broke into their East Baltimore warehouse in June surrendered to police yesterday after a grand jury indicted them on first-degree murder charges.

The indictment contrasts with a similar Baltimore County case in which a grand jury declined to indict two brothers who shot and killed someone who broke into their warehouse in March. That grand jury said the men acted in self-defense.

Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer, both 35, surrendered to police yesterday and were in custody last night, said Deputy State's Attorney Haven H. Kodeck. They will be arraigned Jan. 18.

The men, whose addresses could not be confirmed last night, are charged in the death of Tygon Walker, 37, on June 30. Walker was shot after a break-in through a second-story window of the men's warehouse in the 1300 block of N. Wolfe St.

Der also was indicted on charges of handgun crimes, and Kifer was charged with using a shotgun in connection with Walker's death.

The indictment was delivered Wednesday and announced yesterday.

"I'm really sorry that the grand jury saw fit to indict," said Der's attorney, David B. Irwin. "It was a self-defense situation where the men were in their own business and it was being burglarized. ... I'm upset, and I think it's the wrong decision."

In a news release, the city state's attorney's office wrote that the decision to indict "was solely that of the grand jury."

Asked about that wording, Kodeck said his office was aware that public opinion might initially favor Der and Kifer and wanted to stress that the grand jurors acted independently.

"We wanted to make it absolutely clear that we made the presentation but that we had nothing to do with the decision-making process," he said.

Irwin said it appeared that the state was trying to "swim away" from the indictment. "It seems like they've already found out that public opinion will be on the side of the business owners, who are working in their own building late at night and are sadly but appropriately armed," he said.

Der and Kifer own Abacus Business Service on the first floor of the North Wolfe Street warehouse. They refinish furniture and other wood products. The second floor of the building is used for storage by Der's father, who owns the warehouse, according to prosecutors.

Kodeck would not comment on the details of the case.

Irwin said the two men were at work on the building's first floor about 9:30 p.m. when they heard "crashes and thunks" upstairs.

They armed themselves and went up to investigate. Irwin said it was dark on the second floor, where they discovered Walker. "He says, `I'm gonna kill you,' and comes toward them," Irwin said.

Irwin said the men opened fire on Walker, who was holding a weapon believed to be a hammer. (At the time of the shooting, police also said any weapon Walker had was not a gun.)

Walker, who lived in the Yorkewood Apartments in the 1100 block of E. Belvedere Ave., was convicted of felony theft in Baltimore in 1994, records show.

Irwin said the grand jurors might have been swayed by Walker's having multiple gunshot wounds. "Maybe the grand jury thinks they shot him too many times," he said.

Under Maryland law, a person can use deadly force if that person has a reasonable belief that his or her life is in imminent danger and if he or she uses no more force than reasonably necessary.

In the case of Dominic "Tony" Geckle and Matthew Geckle, who killed one unarmed man and injured two others who had broken into the Geckles' concrete plant in Glyndon in March, the grand jurors found that the brothers were protected from prosecution under the self-defense law.

"It was an open-and-shut case," one juror said at the time.

In that proceeding, unlike this week's, one of the brothers was invited to testify before the grand jury.

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