Grand jury clears officer in fatal shooting

Rookie fired 4 times as naked man charged him

September 17, 2005|By Annie Linskey and Andrea F. Siegel | Annie Linskey and Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The fatal shooting of an unarmed naked man in May by a rookie Anne Arundel County police officer was justified and no indictment will be considered, a grand jury found yesterday.

The action ends the criminal probe of Officer Tommy Pleasant, said John McLane, a spokesman for the Montgomery County state's attorney's office. The office handled the case at the request of prosecutors in Anne Arundel, where Pleasant's mother is a police officer.

After apparently using drugs and calling police in what they said was a delusional state, Donald E. Coates, 20, fired shots and leapt from a window of his Glen Burnie townhouse around 6:47 p.m. May 24. He peeled off his clothes before hiding behind a utility box. Ordered to surrender by police, Coates ran toward the 22-year-old Pleasant. When Coates did not stop, the officer fired four shots, police said.

"It seems like the only time when they go into a grand jury and come out without an indictment is when they go in with a police officer's case," said Warren A. Brown, a lawyer for Coates' family.

"I don't believe it," Coates' mother, Debbie Bell, said after learning the news. "They called that justified?"

Anne Arundel County Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan said he was relieved. "I wish Mr. Coates wasn't dead, and I'm sorry that he got killed and I wish there was a way of using less than lethal force."

"There was a lot more to the case than just a naked individual coming toward him," said Michael E. Davey, Pleasant's lawyer. "He heard the 911 call, he heard the radio broadcast that [Coates] had a gun, that he'd fired shots. Until you've been in the position he's been in ... it is easy to second-guess."

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