Trial begins in officer's shooting

Witness to wounding disputes police account in pretrial testimony

April 20, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

The man charged with ambushing and shooting Baltimore police Officer Willie D. Grandy last year went on trial yesterday, with prosecutors portraying him as a violent cog in the city's drug machine and the defense saying police "got the wrong guy."

According to prosecutors' opening statement, defendant Donnell A. Ward, 27, was trying to prevent a teen-age drug dealer from getting robbed when he shot Grandy once in the left thigh on an East Baltimore street March 26, 2001.

But defense attorney Brian G. Thompson said his client is the victim of a police scramble to catch the person who shot an officer. "There is no scientific evidence to link Donnell Ward to the crime," he said.

Grandy, 41, who was a member of an east-side task force targeting crime in the region, recovered from his wound but has a bullet in his leg.

The officer was shot during a two-week span last year when Baltimore police Agent Michael J. Cowdery was shot and killed, and three other officers were wounded. Two suspects were also shot and killed by police during that period, another was wounded and a fourth was shot at by an officer.

The afternoon Grandy was shot, Grandy and his partner, dressed in plainclothes, were arresting Roy Hopkins, 17, on charges of dealing marijuana in the 700 block of Wharton Court. They had Hopkins in handcuffs when a man came around a corner hiding a handgun under a bandanna, and fired seven shots, prosecutors said yesterday.

Grandy, who was shot once, pulled Hopkins out of the line of fire, but not before Hopkins was shot once in the left buttock. Hopkins has since recovered. The gunman also shot at Grandy's partner, Officer Michael Coleman, but missed.

The shooter ran into a house, leading to a two-hour standoff with heavily armed tactical officers. Police finally burst into the home and led away three men in handcuffs.

Ward was not in the house where the standoff took place and was arrested the following day. He was charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, as well as various handgun charges.

Hopkins, who police say identified Ward as the gunman hours after the shooting, testified in court during pretrial motions yesterday that he never made such an identification and that police are setting him up.

"I said, `That's Don, but he ain't have nothing to do with it,'" Hopkins testified yesterday, recounting his version of the interview with police.

Hopkins said the signature on the photo array from which police said he chose Ward is not his. He said the handwriting on the back of the photo array stating "he started shooting me and police got shot" is not his. He also said the transcript of his taped police interview did not look familiar.

Assistant State's Attorney James Wallner told Circuit Judge Allen L. Schwait that Hopkins is "lying through his teeth" and "doing everything possible to distance himself from the case."

But Ward's lawyer said Hopkins was coerced into identifying Ward because police were pressured into making a fast arrest after one of their own was shot.

"When a police officer is shot in this city or in any other city there's a tremendous amount of pressure to solve the crime and solve it quick," Thompson said.

Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said at the time that the wounding of Grandy was "eerily similar" to Cowdery's death. He was fatally shot 14 days earlier while questioning a woman on Harford Road.

Like Cowdery, Grandy was working plainclothes duty and was assigned to the Eastside Initiative task force when he was shot in the left leg. Cowdery's murderer -- Howard T. Whitworth, who was convicted April 1 --then walked over and shot Cowdery in the head.

Ward's trial resumes Monday.

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