Trial starts for 2 accused in intruder's fatal shooting

Warehouse merchants say they acted in self-defense

January 17, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Two businessmen charged with killing an intruder in their East Baltimore warehouse a year and a half ago went on trial yesterday in a courtroom packed with supporters, as the defense argued the men acted in self-defense and the prosecution said they committed murder.

Kenny Der and Darrell R. Kifer are facing first-degree murder counts for the killing of Tygon Walker, 37, who broke into their Wolfe Street warehouse, possibly brandishing a hammer as a weapon.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Mark P. Cohen, head of the homicide unit for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said Walker suffered 11 gunshot wounds - a fact the prosecutor pointed to as proof that the businessmen fired with intent to kill and were not merely protecting themselves.

"This is not a case of self-defense," Cohen said. "These defendants shot this victim multiple times and the shooting was not justified under the law."

Leslie A. Stein, Kifer's lawyer, labeled the murder charges as "ludicrous," and said the number of wounds Walker suffered is "almost irrelevant."

"An armed felon was justifiably killed," Stein said. "What brought about his death were his own illegal acts."

The men waived their right to a jury trial, and instead agreed to let Circuit Judge John M. Glynn decide the case.

Scores of friends and family members came out to support Der and Kifer, Harford County residents who own a furniture refinishing business in the warehouse where the shooting occurred. Before the trial started, supporters rallied in front of the courthouse steps with signs reading, "Is there justice in Baltimore City?"

There is little dispute about the facts of the case. The case rests on the interpretation of those facts.

The night of June 30, 2001, Der and Kifer were on the first floor of the two-story warehouse when they heard noises upstairs. The building was a common target for burglars and had been broken into about 20 times in the preceding two months, Kifer told police.

Der, armed with a handgun, and Kifer, armed with a shotgun, were investigating the noise when they came upon Walker, who had just broken in through a window.

According to the defense, Walker was brandishing a hammer and said he was going to kill the men. Der and Kifer fired, hitting Walker several times.

Walker, who lived in the 1100 block of E. Belvedere Ave., was convicted of felony theft in Baltimore in 1994, records show. He also had been arrested eight times on various charges in Baltimore between 1993 and 1996.

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