Teen acquitted last year in police death is arrested

Eric D. Stennett charged with drug, handgun violations

March 11, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore teen-ager who was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges after a police officer died in a high-speed car chase almost two years ago was arrested late Saturday after a foot chase with police in West Baltimore, police said.

He was charged with a range of offenses, from drug trafficking, assaulting police and carrying a concealed handgun to trespassing and littering.

Eric D. Stennett, 19, of the 800 block of Harlem Ave. ran when a patrol car approached the 1000 block of Druid Hill Ave. about 11:50 p.m. Saturday, police said. Two officers in the cruiser were responding to an anonymous tip about an armed person and drug dealing, police said.

Stennett is accused of fleeing through McCulloh Homes, a public housing development, tossing a loaded handgun and plastic bags containing suspected heroin and cocaine as he ran, authorities said.

Officer Milton Smith followed Stennett on foot, partially drawing his service weapon when it appeared that Stennett was drawing his own gun, according to a statement Smith filed with District Court.

Stennett continued running, weaving around the buildings with Smith in pursuit, until another officer who'd been called to assist helped corner him, the statement said.

Only after an officer ordered Stennett to the ground and learned his name did police realize he was the person charged in the crash that killed Officer Kevon M. Gavin in April 2000, the statement said.

In January last year, Stennett was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in Gavin's death.

The crash occurred as Stennett, wearing a bulletproof vest, led police on a high-speed chase that ended with his Bronco plowing into Gavin's cruiser. Police said he was fleeing a shooting.

At the trial, Stennett's defense attorney said the crash was an accident and he highlighted inconsistencies in police reports. Many police officials, prosecutors, city leaders and residents expressed outrage at the verdict.

"The name Stennett sounds extremely familiar," Officer Kenneth Ramberg remarked to the suspect soon after he was arrested Saturday night, according to Smith's statement. "You're the ... "

"Yeah, I'm the one, you [expletive]," Stennett interrupted, according to the statement. "When I get out, you'll be taken care of. ... I'll get ya."

Those alleged threats form the basis of two assault charges against Stennett.

Stennett faces 14 charges, including possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute near a school, carrying a concealed weapon, and carrying a weapon while engaging in drug trafficking.

He also was charged with littering because of the items he is accused of tossing as he fled - a loaded .32-caliber handgun, plastic bags containing 28 gelatin capsules of suspected heroin and 56 vials of suspected crack cocaine.

He was charged with trespassing because he is accused of running through McCulloh Homes.

In all, the charges carry a maximum penalty of more than 150 years in prison and fines of up to $150,000, according to prosecutors.

Stennett's bail was set at $250,000, subject to "collateral security only," which means he must post the full amount or put up property of that value, according to the city state's attorney's office.

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