Police say man wanted to die

Commander calls fatal shooting by officer `case of suicide by police'

May 31, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

A 39-year-old man who was shot to death by Baltimore police after lunging at them with a metal-tipped umbrella was trying to commit suicide, police said yesterday.

"This is a clear case of suicide by police," said Maj. George Klein, commander of the city's Warrant Apprehension Task Force. "There is no other clear reason for what he did."

Kevin Vines was wanted on assault with a deadly weapons charge when police tried to arrest him Wednesday morning in Northwest Baltimore. Vines tried to stab two officers with an umbrella when Officer Randolph K. Brown, a 19-year veteran, shot him twice, police said.

Klein described Vines' actions as menacing and as being indicative of someone who had no regard for his own life or others. Vines at one point charged at a police car while holding the umbrella close to his side -- an image Klein likened to a soldier lunging at a target with a bayonet.

Two shots fired

Brown fired two shots from about 5 feet away after Vines made a stabbing motion with the umbrella, which he was holding above his head, police said. A state medical examiner concluded that the wounds were consistent with Vines holding an umbrella above his head.

Vines had a criminal background, including a 1994 conviction for the attempted murder of a girlfriend. Vines served a portion of an 11-year prison sentence and was released from prison last year.

About 7:30 a.m., Brown and two other officers, one of them a parole and probation agent, went to Vines' home in the 5400 block of Nelson Ave. to arrest him on the assault with a deadly weapons warrant. Vines escaped through a side door and was holding the umbrella when he was confronted by Brown, Klein said.

Brown ordered Vines to drop the umbrella, Klein said, but Vines refused. Brown doused him with pepper spray, a liquid that causes irritation to the eyes and often forces suspects to surrender.

But the pepper spray did not work, and Vines ran away, Klein said.

Police chased Vines for several minutes, gave up and began driving around the neighborhood trying to find him. A few blocks away, the officers spotted Vines standing at Rubin and Dawes avenues, police said.

As the officers approached Vines, he charged at the car, police said. When Vines began to try to stab the driver of the car with the umbrella, Brown scrambled out to distract him, Klein said.

The warrant for which task force officers were seeking Vines charged him with holding two knives to the neck of his former girlfriend during an assault May 23 at her home in the 5000 block of Palmer Ave., police said.

The day before the assault, Vines told two acquaintances that he was "going to go to jail for something serious," adding that it was likely he was "going to go to jail for murder," police said.

Easy weapons

Charles Joe Key, a consultant on police use of force and a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's guidelines for using force, said that umbrellas and other unusual items can easily become weapons.

"If you take away the umbrella part, you are facing someone trying to jab you with a stick with a sharpened piece of steel," Key said. "He has a short spear."

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