Charges dropped in killing at party

Prosecutors say evidence is lacking

man was shot at American Legion hall

September 12, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County prosecutors have dropped murder charges against the man suspected of killing a Baltimore man last month in an American Legion hall in Annapolis, saying they lacked evidence to bring a convincing case to a grand jury last week.

Calvin Watkins, 22, of Annapolis was accused in the fatal shooting Aug. 10 of Damon Michael Rhodes, 38, of Northeast Baltimore, at Cook-Pinkney Post 141, a local landmark on Forest Drive.

"We need to have a more thorough investigation before we can bring this case before a grand jury," said Kristin Riggin, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.

She said evidence did not warrant efforts to keep Watkins in jail without bail. Prosecutors received the police report Thursday, a day before they would have sought a first-degree murder indictment. They deemed the contents of the report insufficient.

Nevertheless, Watkins has not been eliminated as a potential suspect, said Riggin and Cpl. Pete Medley, lead Annapolis police investigator in the case.

Thomas McCarthy Jr., Watkins' lawyer, said that after his client was arrested, rumors on the street had it "he was not the shooter and someone else was."

He said he feared that Watkins might be harmed in retaliation. Two groups might have gotten into a dispute at the private party at the American Legion hall, he said, and some among the 50 people in attendance might think Watkins saw something or someone and told police. Watkins was hit on the head during the disturbance and saw nothing, McCarthy said.

McCarthy said that although charges were dropped late Friday, he didn't learn about it until the next day.

"I didn't find out about it until Saturday - when I went to the Detention Center to see him on Saturday and he wasn't there - that they dropped the case," he said.

Watkins was charged within hours of the fatal shooting. He went to the Anne Arundel Medical Center emergency room for treatment for his head injury, and as detectives were questioning people there about the shooting, a witness identified Watkins as the shooter, police said. Two other Annapolis men were wounded during the gunfire, but police don't think they were the intended targets.

McCarthy did not fault city police for charging Watkins.

Annapolis police typically consult with prosecutors and their investigators when someone dies suspiciously and before bringing charges in murder cases.

But Medley said that there is no formal, written agreement and that the circumstances of cases vary. He said he did not consult with prosecutors in this case, in part because police had a witness.

Police are continuing to try to find people who were at the American Legion hall, but just as before, they are meeting with scarce cooperation.

Medley said he did not know what started any dispute at the hall. "We don't know because we can't find eyewitnesses," he said.

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