Police sued in killing of N.C. man

Motorist wanted for speeding was shot at tunnel toll plaza

Family seeks $2 million

Transportation authority, city prosecutors cleared officers in 2000 incident

April 18, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The family of a North Carolina man who was shot and killed by Maryland Transportation Authority police in November 2000 filed a lawsuit yesterday claiming that officers acted improperly and that a supervisor tried unsuccessfully to break off the car chase that led to the shooting.

The $2 million suit alleges that three police officers should not have used lethal force when they approached and tried to stop a car being driven toward the Fort McHenry Tunnel toll plaza by Joshua T. Waterman, 42.

Waterman's family members could not be reached for comment yesterday, and their attorney, William J. Murphy, declined to comment.

Transportation authority spokeswoman Lori Vidil issued a statement yesterday defending the officers.

"The Maryland Transportation Authority Police conducted a thorough investigation of this matter and found that the officers acted in accord with the public interest and within the bounds of the law," Vidil said. "The officers acted to protect their own safety and the safety of the public."

City prosecutors reviewed the shooting and declined to press criminal charges against the officers, who also were cleared of any wrongdoing in an internal inquiry by transportation authority police.

Waterman, who suffered from bipolar disorder, decided to leave his home in Raleigh, N.C., and visit his mother in Rhode Island in late November 2000.

About 3 p.m. Nov. 28, he passed a transportation authority officer on Interstate 195 heading toward Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The officer clocked Waterman driving 51 mph in a 25-mph zone and began chasing him. Waterman led police on a slow chase north on Interstate 95 toward the Fort McHenry Tunnel.

A police supervisor tried to call off the chase because he did not feel a speeding violation warranted a pursuit, the suit says. But the order was never relayed to the officers chasing Waterman, the suit says.

As Waterman approached the toll plaza, several officers walked toward his Mazda as it slowed just before the M-tag lane. As the car in front of Waterman's drove through the toll plaza, Waterman also drove forward.

Three police officers then opened fire. They have been identified as Officers Michael Batton and Christopher Heisey and Officer Candidate Kenneth Keel.

Waterman was hit by five bullets. His car then moved through the toll plaza, where other officers were waiting and deployed stop sticks, devices designed to puncture vehicle tires. Waterman was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

The officers gave statements to authorities saying that they shot Waterman because they were worried about being run over.

But the suit alleges that those statements are inconsistent with videos taken from cameras mounted in patrol cars and statements from toll collectors and other witnesses.

"The neutral witness statements and the videotaped evidence demonstrate that neither the defendant officers, nor any other bystanders, had been placed in reasonable apprehension of serious bodily harm from Mr. Waterman," the suit says.

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