Fatal shooting by a DNR officer being investigated

Waterman, 49, was shot three times after confrontation near boat, police say

August 02, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

The killing of a 49-year-old waterman Monday by a Maryland Natural Resources Police officer - believed to be the first fatal shooting involving an officer for the agency since the 1950s - remained under investigation yesterday.

Thomas S. Sherwood Jr., 49, of Bellevue was fatally shot on the boat dock on Tar Creek, just feet from the vessel where he had been living, after what police described as a verbal altercation between him and Officer 1st Class Hubert F. Brohawn.

The officer was on routine patrol when he encountered Sherwood, who was returning to the dock in his vessel, and Brohawn attempted to conduct a check of Sherwood's catch, said Ken Turner, a police spokesman.

Turner said Sherwood threatened Brohawn with a large car jack and did not respond to repeated requests to put the item down. Brohawn shot him, and Sherwood died at the scene, Turner said.

Police said Sherwood had "an extensive criminal record" but would not elaborate.

But yesterday, the family and friends of Sherwood, a longtime waterman who was described as the "dock master" and a slight ruddy man who loved living on the water, said he had complained previously of being harassed by Brohawn.

"This officer had a number of run-ins with Tom Jr. for some time, and he was pursuing a vendetta against him," said the man's father, Thomas S. Sherwood Sr., 73, of Easton. "He just said this guy from DNR was harassing him."

The father said his son was shot three times in the chest at close range. He said his son had not been crabbing that day, and that no crabs were found aboard his boat. He also said state police told him his son's boat was running and in reverse.

"You could walk up to any waterman and you could hear stories about Officer Brohawn's confrontational and overzealous style toward waterman," said John H. Harrison, 54, of St. Michaels, who said he has been crabbing for about 20 years and has known Sherwood for almost as long. "He didn't like watermen, and they didn't like him."

Brohawn, a 4 1/2 -year veteran, was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The Maryland Natural Resources Police Integrity and Inspections Unit is conducting a separate administrative investigation of the shooting. Brohawn also had worked for nine years at the Talbot County Sheriff's Office.

Harrison said Sherwood, who also worked in the construction business, had crabbed about three Sundays since the season started in April. He said Sherwood always took Mondays off.

"A lot of guys are real upset and ... worry about people in positions of authority out there with guns," Harrison said. "Tempers flare. ... I know Tom, I'm sure he told him, I'm here on private property. I'm not crabbing."

Dana Sindermann, 52, who owns a construction company and had employed Sherwood for four years, said he spoke to him moments before he was killed.

"I was supposed to have lunch with him," Sindermann said. "I talked to him at 11:28. He didn't seem confrontational. He wasn't drunk. Within 10 minutes of that he was dead. I think this whole thing is a travesty."

Sindermann said Sherwood told him Brohawn had arrested him on a driving under the influence charge a few years ago.

Lori Wheatley, a former state parole and probation agent in Talbot County who supervised Sherwood during a stint on probation nearly 20 years ago after he was convicted on a DUI charge, said yesterday that he "was not a hardened criminal."

"Tom would rant and rave about the things they did," Wheatley said. "They got too close to his boat and the weight caused damage [to his boat]. Because he was opinionated and spoke his mind, they probably didn't care much for him. But he didn't bother anybody."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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