Trial begins in fatal shooting of 14-year-old

March 24, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore school police officer who is accused of fatally shooting a 14-year-old in the back of the head outside a city elementary school in 2002 was on trial yesterday facing second-degree murder charges in Circuit Court.

Prosecutors contend that Officer Marlon R. Lynch shot Samuel Fitzgerald as the teen-ager ran away, while the defense argues Lynch fired his gun in self-defense after Fitzgerald struck the officer in the face.

Robert Smith, a friend of Fitzgerald's who was with the teen-ager when he was shot, testified yesterday that neither he nor Fitzgerald struck the officer or said anything to him. Smith also said he believed that Fitzgerald, a freshman at Northern High School, was running from Lynch when he was shot.

Smith, now 17, testified that he and Fitzgerald were smoking marijuana and drinking a peach wine cooler behind Leith Walk Elementary School in Northeast Baltimore at 1 a.m. April 6, when Lynch came upon them.

"I heard someone say `freeze,' and there was a cop with a gun pointed at us," Smith testified. "Sam started running, then I started running. Then I heard a shot."

Smith testified he looked back and saw Fitzgerald on the ground. He ran home and didn't tell police what happened until officers knocked on his door nine days later, the teen said.

Lynch's lawyer, Warren A. Brown, said the incident began when Lynch approached the two teens and told them to leave the school grounds. That was when Fitzgerald punched Lynch in the face, Brown said, knocking the officer off-balance, and he shot his gun to protect himself.

Lynch is one of 11 officers assigned to the Night Response Unit, which patrols school grounds during non-school hours. School police officers assigned to patrol inside schools are not allowed to carry guns, but officers of the Night Response Unit carry handguns, officials said.

The trial was scheduled to continue today.

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