City's top lawyer disrupts drug arrest of nephew

Zollicoffer apologizes for `inconvenience' to police

May 01, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The city government's top lawyer showed up unexpectedly and disrupted the arrest of his nephew on drug charges last night at the young man's Northeast Baltimore home.

City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. later apologized for his conduct, saying he went too far when he rushed to his nephew's house in the 1900 block of E. Belvedere Ave.

"I apologize for letting my heart get in the way of my head this evening," Zollicoffer said in a statement issued by City Hall spokesman Tony White.

Police officials said Northern District undercover officers had been investigating Zollicoffer's nephew, Lawrence D. Hutchings, 22, and bought suspected drugs from him Monday.

When they took him into custody yesterday, Hutchings was not carrying identification. He was taken to his home, where officers found his ID and were arresting him when Zollicoffer showed up, police said.

Zollicoffer was called by his older sister, Hutchings' mother, and told of the arrest, police said, and immediately left a community meeting about two miles away at Walter P. Carter Elementary School that he was attending with the mayor.

When the solicitor arrived, officers were securing the house while awaiting a search warrant; he began giving them a difficult time, police said. He was wearing his city identification card, made it clear that he was the city solicitor, and told the officers that they were acting inappropriately, police said.

Officers called in commanders to handle the situation. Zollicoffer then left the house.

Police said that Hutchings, whose name also appears as Hutchins in court records, was to be charged with distribution and possession of drugs.

Zollicoffer's actions could be a conflict of interest because he represents the city and the Police Department in lawsuits.

Gary McLhinney, president of the city's police union, said he was going to request that O'Malley conduct an investigation into Zollicoffer's actions. "The information we're getting this evening, if true, is very disturbing and will require further action on our part," said McLhinney, who declined to elaborate.

Zollicoffer, in his apology, said, "I acted as a little brother, not as city solicitor. This has been an emotional and traumatic day for my family, and I regret any inconvenience that I might have caused the officers as they performed their duties."

Late last night, several top police officials were outside the house, including Deputy Police Commissioner Kenneth Blackwell; Col. Robert M. Stanton, chief of detectives; Lt. Col. Steven McMahon, the night duty commander; Col. John McEntee, the department's chief of patrol operations; and Maj. Scott Williams, the Northern District commander.

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