Two city officers are shot to death

Suspect had been engaged to female victim, her mother says

December 22, 2005|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN, GUS G. SENTEMENTES AND JOSH MITCHELL | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN, GUS G. SENTEMENTES AND JOSH MITCHELL,SUN REPORTERS

A state Department of General Services police officer was being held this morning on two counts of first-degree murder - charged with killing his former fiancee and the man she was dating, both of them Baltimore City police officers.

The two city officers, Adam Vazquez and Leslie A. Holliday, were found shot to death in a Pikesville townhouse yesterday shortly after noon. Vazquez, a 4 1/2 -year veteran of the city force, and Holliday, a newcomer to the force and mother of three, both worked the midnight shift at the department's Northwest District.

Eugene Victor Perry Jr., 33, an officer with the Department of General Services, surrendered to Baltimore County police yesterday afternoon. He was charged early this morning with two counts of first-degree murder and related offenses, police said. Perry was being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information supplied by police, yesterday's editions of The Sun misstated the age of Leslie A. Holliday, one of two Baltimore police officers shot to death Wednesday in a Pikesville townhouse. She was 34.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Though police did not offer a specific motive for the shooting, Holliday's mother, Bernice Johnson, said her daughter had been engaged to the suspect until last summer. And she recently had been dating Vazquez, the mother said.

A Baltimore County police spokesman confirmed that the three knew one another and that the shooting was "not a random crime." Vazquez, 26, and Holliday, 28, were found dead with multiple gunshot wounds about 12:10 p.m. in Vazquez's house in the Courtland Manor neighborhood of Pikesville, police said.

An adult couple and young child were at the house, in the 3900 block of M'Ladies Court, at the time of the shooting, police said. Police said they were unsure of the connection between Vazquez and the adults. Neighbors said they believed Vazquez and the others were relatives.

Police said the couple had let the suspect into the house and later called 911 after the two officers were shot on the second floor.

Police recovered the handgun believed to have been used in the shootings, county police spokesman Bill Toohey said. The gun was not the officer's service weapon, he said.

Holliday, who was raising a 12-year-old daughter and two younger sons in her mother's Joppa home, had been divorced from the children's father for about five years.

Her mother said yesterday that she was watching television when a crawler along the bottom of the screen reported that two city officers had been killed. She left a voice mail message for her daughter - "Leslie, call me" - then the television showed an image of the crime scene.

"I said, `That's Leslie's car,'" Johnson, 62, added in a thick Caribbean accent.

She later learned that the suspect was the man to whom her daughter was engaged for about two years until last summer, when Holliday returned his ring. Holliday had told her mother of breaking off the engagement but did not say why, Johnson said. She said Holliday had recently been "seeing" Vasquez.

Holliday, a graduate of Joppatowne High School, had returned Tuesday from Trinidad, where she attended her paternal grandmother's funeral, Johnson said.

Neighbors of Vazquez said he moved into the townhouse nine months ago. He was often seen walking his small dog, Peanut. "He was a very likable person," said Jerry McDonald, a neighbor. "When I cut my grass, I cut his."

McDonald said he sometimes saw Holliday stop by Vazquez's house. "She told me at one time that they had an agreement that they [were] friends because he wasn't ready to get married," McDonald said.

Experts are divided over how prone law enforcement officers are to domestic violence.

Some point to studies that they say show domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than all families. Others say the data are not conclusive and they believe that police officers are no more likely than the rest of the population to attack their loved ones.

But these experts acknowledged that when officers act out with a spouse or partner, there is often a greater chance for a violent, even lethal, result.

"When you have officers involved, you automatically have guns nearby," said Doug Ward, deputy director of the Division of Public Safety Leadership at the Johns Hopkins University in Columbia and a retired major with the Maryland State Police.

He added that officers regularly live outside the county or city where they work, making it more difficult for a department to be notified that its officer has a problem.

David R. Thomas, who works with Ward as assistant director for the domestic violence education program at Hopkins, has helped police departments establish new policies and procedures related to officer-involved domestic violence.

He went to Tacoma, Wash., after a police chief there murdered his wife and then shot himself in April 2003. Thomas has a trip scheduled to Connecticut, where a state trooper recently shot and killed his ex-girlfriend before he killed himself.

"What I try to do is to try to learn from these tragedies and try to prevent them from happening in the future," Thomas said. "We have to recognize the signs and then act accordingly."

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