Man's family sues MdTA, officer over fatal shooting

$95 million suit claims victim was unarmed, had arms raised

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June 10, 2005|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

The family of Thomas C. Martin, who was shot and killed last year by a Maryland Transportation Authority police officer, filed a lawsuit yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court alleging that Martin was unarmed and had his arms raised at the time of the shooting.

The $95 million suit against the agency and Officer Sean Kent alleges that the officer acted maliciously, prompting the July 29 shooting outside an East Baltimore convenience store.

Martin, 22, was the passenger in an Infiniti that police pursued from Interstate 895 into the parking lot of a Royal Farms store in the 6400 block of Pulaski Highway.

Police said the car in which Martin was riding had sped toward a woman and her child. That prompted Kent to fire shots, they said. Martin was inside the car when he was shot.

City police and prosecutors ruled the shooting justified, according to police and the city state's attorney's office. Chief Gary McLhinney of the MdTA police declined to comment yesterday on the specifics of the case, but he lauded Kent, who had been on the force nearly two years at the time of the shooting.

"He saved the life of a mother and her small child," McLhinney said. "It's unfortunate, in the times we live, that officers simply doing their jobs can face this kind of court action."

Attorney A. Dwight Pettit, who represents the family, said yesterday that he has interviewed at least three witnesses who will support the lawsuit's allegation that the car did not pose a threat to anyone.

"This is just outrageous," Pettit said.

After the incident, the driver of the car, Leroy Sherrod, pleaded guilty to charges that he fled police and drove on a suspended license, prosecutors said. He was sentenced to time served - 3 1/2 months.

Officer Troy Harris, a Baltimore police spokesman, said yesterday that Martin had been "the prime and only suspect" in an April 26, 2003 killing, which was closed after Martin's death.

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