City police testify about officer's slaying

Cowdery gunned down in E. Baltimore ambush

March 15, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police officers continued testifying in court yesterday about the cold, rainy night their fellow officer Michael J. Cowdery was gunned down last year.

Assistant State's Attorney Donald Giblin and assistant public defender John Markus asked officers questions about the crime scene and a gun found near the site of the killing, though they did not indicate whether they will argue that it is the murder weapon.

It was the third day in the murder trial of Howard T. Whitworth, who is accused of ambushing Cowdery, 31, on an East Baltimore street, shooting him in the leg and killing him with a bullet to the head.

In opening statements earlier this week, the prosecution portrayed Whitworth, 32, as a "cold-blooded cop killer," while the defense contended that he is a victim of mistaken identity.

In the two days that have followed, the jury has heard testimony about which officers guarded the gun found at the scene and whether they shielded it from the rain that evening. Police also have testified that they found 40 packets of cocaine on Whitworth.

The story of what happened that night is expected to unfold in testimony next week.

"I can't imagine a circumstance more difficult than testifying in court after losing a friend and co-worker," said Gary McLhinney, president of the local police union. "It's the most difficult thing the officers have done in their lives."

The six officers who have testified cannot speak about the case outside of the courtroom, because they may be recalled as witnesses.

The only clues the jury has been given as to what happened March 12, 2001, were in opening statements.

Everyone on the block scattered when shots were fired, Giblin told the jury, but Whitworth walked over to Cowdery and shot him again as he lay disabled on the sidewalk.

Police say Whitworth also shot Officer Ronald A. Beverly, who was wounded in the ankle and leg. Whitworth was wounded when police returned fire, police said.

Everyone is bracing for emotional testimony next week, McLhinney said, as the details of what happened that night are revealed.

Expected to testify are officers who were at the scene, doctors who examined Cowdery and Whitworth, and witnesses of the shootings.

"As we get into offense, it will get more difficult," said McLhinney, who was at the trial with Cowdery's family and several police officers. "And already you sit there with a queasy feeling in your stomach. You're talking about a fellow police officer."

Cowdery had been on the force for 4 1/2 years and was the son of a career Philadelphia police detective, Michael J. Cowdery Sr., who says he has not missed one minute of testimony.

The father said yesterday that his pain is compounded by the mystery of why someone would want to kill his son.

"Why would he want to come out of nowhere and ambush my son?" he said. "I can't come up with a logical explanation."

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