Prosecutor rests case in killing of officer

Detective says he got into shootout, chased man from the scene

More than 20 called to testify

Only one witness identified Whitworth as Cowdery's killer

March 26, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

State prosecutors trying to prove that Howard "Wee" Whitworth gunned down a Baltimore police officer last year wrapped up their case yesterday with testimony from the officer who they believe got into a shootout with the defendant.

Detective Ronald A. Beverly, who was working with officer Michael J. Cowdery Jr. and two other officers the night Cowdery was killed, told the jury he chased a man from the scene of the shooting to a spot a few blocks away, where the man collapsed.

But neither Beverly nor the two other officers with him that night can identify Whitworth as the man who shot Cowdery, they testified.

After eight days of witnesses, the only person who can identify Whitworth as the shooter is Rachel Rogers, an admitted addict, drug dealer and prostitute, who says she knows Whitworth and saw him shoot Cowdery.

Prosecutor Donald Giblin has portrayed Whitworth, 27, as a "drug dealer and a cold-blooded cop killer," while defense lawyers John P. Markus and Harun Shabazz contend their client is a victim of mistaken identity.

On the rainy night of the killing, Cowdery was with several of his colleagues questioning three people outside a carryout restaurant on Harford Road. The officers were not in uniform but were wearing police badges around their necks.

Whitworth appeared suddenly and shot Cowdery in the leg, Giblin said, then walked over to Cowdery and shot him in the head as he lay on the sidewalk.

Beverly, who scattered along with the others after the first shot rang out, testified yesterday that when he looked back in the direction of the first shot, he saw a man wearing dark clothing lean over Cowdery, then run away. Beverly gave chase, and the two shot at each other. The chase ended when the man collapsed on the sidewalk on Cliftview Avenue, about two blocks from where Cowdery was killed.

Both men were hit in the exchange, though it is unclear in what sequence.

Beverly was hit in both legs. The man he shot, later identified as Whitworth, sustained five gunshot wounds that nearly killed him, according to medical testimony earlier in the trial. More than 40 packets of crack cocaine were found on Whitworth in the hospital.

Giblin has called more than 23 witnesses to prove Whitworth killed Cowdery, including a ballistics expert who testified that the gun found next to Whitworth was used to kill Cowdery, though no fingerprints were found on the weapon.

A gun expert explained the lack of prints on the gun by saying there was a heavy rainstorm the night of the killing, and water would have prevented prints from forming.

The defense suggested police were careless with the crime scene by allowing the gun to sit in the rain, possibly washing away any fingerprints. They also pointed out to the jury that police failed to test Whitworth's hand for gunshot residue, as is customary.

Giblin's case also brought in corrections officer Tierre Brownlee, who testified that Whitworth told him in the hospital he shot Cowdery because he thought Cowdery was a "stick-up boy" trying to rob drug dealers on the street.

The defense is expected to begin calling witnesses today.

Their case, outlined in opening statements, is that Whitworth is not the killer and police have not investigated enough to prove that he is.

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