Man may not have fired at police

At first, it was thought that murder suspect fired before officers killed him

September 12, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

A murder suspect who was fatally shot by Baltimore County police in a Harford County trailer park Tuesday night might not have fired at the officers before they shot him twice, authorities said yesterday.

Initially, Harford County authorities said Steven Wade Honeycutt, a 20-year-old Middle River resident, pointed a shotgun and fired at Baltimore County plainclothes detectives who had surrounded him in the Busby Mobile Home Community in Perryman about 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Harford County sheriff's deputies said police saw Honeycutt pull a shotgun from the trunk of his car and found ammunition from the gun on the ground.

Yesterday, deputies searched the area for spent shotgun shell casings, and Honeycutt's gun was tested to determine whether if it had been fired.

"He was clearly armed with a loaded weapon," said Ginger Rigney, a spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the shooting.

It remained unclear how many officers fired at Honeycutt and how many shots they fired. "This is all part of an ongoing investigation," Rigney said.

Five Baltimore County detectives and one officer have been reassigned to administrative duty, a routine procedure in such cases, said Cpl. Ron Brooks, a Baltimore County police spokesman.

The officers involved in the shooting were identified yesterday as Sgt. David Drapinski, 39, a 17-year department veteran; Detective Molly Gardner, 40, an eight-year veteran; Detective Joseph Michael, 42, an 18-year veteran; Detective Allen Meyer, 40, a 16-year veteran; Detective Kurt Wilhelm, 40, a 19-year veteran; and Officer Brian Hauer, 28, of the Essex precinct, a five-year veteran.

Neighbors said they heard a hail of gunfire as bullets bounced off trailers and shattered the back window of a parked car. "There were so many shots I couldn't count them," said Mary Fender, who lives in the trailer park. "When it gets this close, you get concerned."

Baltimore County police began looking for Honeycutt after they found his former girlfriend, Jessica Leah Dobry, 18, bludgeoned to death in her townhouse in the first block of Oak Grove Drive in Middle River Tuesday morning. Honeycutt was seen by neighbors leaving the house with their 2-year-old son.

The child was found unharmed at a relative's trailer in the Busby trailer park. Danny Correll, who identified himself as Honeycutt's uncle, said Honeycutt "left him here and gave us some diaper money."

"He never fired a shot," Correll said of Honeycutt. "There was a safety lock on the gun, a 12-gauge shotgun. I saw him fall. The [deputies] said the gun was right under him."

Correll said he didn't doubt that officers had cause to shoot at Honeycutt. But he said his nephew told him that he didn't kill his former girlfriend. "He said she was unconscious when he got to the house. He thought she overdosed. He got scared and ran."

A Baltimore County police shooting investigation team will conduct a separate review of Tuesday's incident to determine whether officers followed the department's use-of-force policy, Brooks said. The Harford County state's attorney will determine whether the shooting was justified.

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