Commissioner to step down during probe

Independent investigation called in domestic dispute

Reports of alleged injury surface

City asks Howard officials to conduct Clark inquiry

May 19, 2004|By Ryan Davis and Doug Donovan | Ryan Davis and Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark stepped down last night, agreeing to a temporary leave from his duties until Howard County officials complete an independent investigation into a domestic dispute he had with his fiancee on Saturday.

The announcement came as new reports surfaced indicating Clark's fiancee might have been injured in the dispute. The additional police reports also quote a friend of Clark's fiancee saying, "This is not the first time he has done this to her."

Mayor Martin O'Malley said in a statement that Howard County Executive James N. Robey agreed to assign police investigators to probe the incident that Clark has described as a "disagreement like any other couple would have."

Clark and his fiancee, Blanca Gerena, said in a news conference Monday night that they argued early Saturday at the commissioner's North Baltimore apartment off Falls Road but that there was no assault.

O'Malley ordered Baltimore police officers to forward all relevant material this morning to Howard County officials.

"There is an obligation to be professional, thorough and impartial in his investigation," O'Malley said. "County Executive Robey has pledged to do just that."

Robey, a former Howard police chief, told O'Malley that his officers could have the investigation wrapped up by "week's end," according to O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.

Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Blackwell will command the city Police Department while Clark, 47, is on paid leave.

The announcement comes as police union officials have asked State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy to conduct a criminal investigation into the domestic dispute. Jessamy has not set a time for making a decision, her spokeswoman Margaret T. Burns said yesterday.

Jessamy will discuss the matter with Videtta A. Brown, her office's chief domestic violence prosecutor, and other officials, Burns said.

Dan Fickus, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, said the incident warrants a follow-up criminal investigation.

"If it would have been anyone else ... that individual would have been arrested," Fickus said.

At the news conference Monday night, Clark released two reports about the domestic dispute that occurred at 3:52 a.m. Saturday. The initial reports did not identify Clark, his address or Gerena. The two have been dating for 14 years and have a 4-year-old son.

Police became involved in the dispute when Gerena, 40, left the apartment she shares with Clark and asked to use the cell phone of one of the officers posted outside. Uniformed officers are regularly stationed outside for security.

The officers asked if she was "okay," the report states. Gerena stated that she was Clark's wife and that she needed a ride. The two officers both reported that Gerena stated, "he assault me." Both also stated that they did not observe any signs of injury.

Gerena then called a friend who picked her up a few minutes later, the report states.

Clark also came outside at one point and a supervisor reported that the officers "kept the parties apart and attempted to ascertain what was happening."

"At no time while I was at the undisclosed location did [Gerena] seek refuge or request assistance from me," states the unnamed supervisor's report.

The additional reports released yesterday paint a different picture of the incident. They pick up where the other reports left off, describing what Gerena and her friend told police after they left the scene.

One report to the deputy commissioner's office from Maj. Regis Phelan states that the friend said, "This is not the first time he, (Police Commissioner), has done this to her."

In a separate report, Phelan writes that Gerena would not speak with him at the scene.

"She also stated she did not want to be seen by Commissioner Clark," Phelan's report states. "[Gerena] appeared a few moments later and was transported away from the complex by [the friend]. I was asked to follow them to a place they felt safe to talk."

The report states that he met the two women at a nearby gas station with other officers. According to the report, Gerena told Phelan that she did not want to file a report and that she did not want to go to the hospital.

"She was visibly shaken and had an appearance as if crying," Phelan wrote.

Phelan gave his cell phone number to both women. He wrote that the friend called him on his cell phone at 12:17 p.m. Saturday.

The friend said Gerena "had suffered injuries to her neck and left arm and was experiencing pain in her neck," the report states. "She further stated [Gerena] was leaving Baltimore to stay with her mother in New York."

Clark had no comment yesterday. But his spokesman Matt Jablow said the commissioner told him that Gerena's friend has denied reporting an assault or previous assaults. The friend could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"She doesn't know," Jablow said, "what she said to any police officer that could possibly have been misconstrued as to being that remark."

Sun staff writer Allison Klein contributed to this article.

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