Ex-Terp Baxter held on gun charges in D.C.

Former basketball player arrested after shots heard near White House

August 17, 2006|By NICOLE FULLER | NICOLE FULLER,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Former University of Maryland basketball player Lonny Baxter, who prosecutors say had a recently fired .40-caliber gun in his SUV early yesterday morning near the White House, was ordered held yesterday in D.C. Superior Court.

Baxter, 27, was taken into custody by uniformed Secret Service officers shortly after 2:30 a.m. yesterday, after someone flagged down a cruiser and reported gunshots coming from a white sport utility vehicle, said Eric Zahren, a Secret Service spokesman. The arrest was made at 17th and I streets Northwest, a couple of blocks from the White House.

Towering over everyone in the courtroom yesterday afternoon, the 6-foot-8 Baxter -- who was clad in a spotless pair of white and blue Nike basketball shoes and a police-issued plastic suit -- stood silently with his hands cuffed behind his back and his ankles shackled as he was charged with carrying a pistol without a license.

His passenger, Francis I. Martin, 35, of Temple Hills, was also charged but was released on his own recognizance. At times during the hearing, five U.S. marshals flanked the men, who were told once, "Don't talk, guys," as they attempted to whisper to each other.

According to charging documents, Secret Service police in downtown Washington heard two gunshots about 2:30 a.m. in the vicinity of 17th and H streets NW.

The Secret Service protects the president, his family and high-ranking officials. Its Uniformed Division -- along with the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Park Police -- patrols the area around the White House.

Baxter, of Rockville, who apparently had spent part of his evening at the Washington nightclub Eyebar, was stopped by police about 10 minutes later in his white Range Rover, which was traveling southbound on 17th Street.

Baxter and Martin were ordered out of the vehicle, the charging documents said, and police spotted two shell casings on the rear floorboard. Police searched the vehicle and discovered the loaded .40-caliber Glock pistol in the center console. The gun, which can hold nine rounds, contained six rounds, the charging documents said. An officer found a bullet matching the caliber and characteristics of the round found in the weapon at 17th and K streets NW.

Arguing that both Baxter and Martin be held in the D.C. jail until a preliminary hearing tomorrow, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Kelly acknowledged that authorities had not yet determined who fired the gun.

"We have very strong evidence that the gun was discharged very recently from when the car was stopped," Kelly said. "The evidence is so strong that the gun was discharged. ... We don't know who discharged it."

Referring to a 2004 charge for an unregistered firearm in which Baxter received nine months' probation, Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan said: "I don't have any problem [holding] Mr. Baxter. He's the driver of the automobile. He's in control of the premises."

But Sullivan ruled that Martin, who, according to court documents, was incarcerated three times for cocaine-related offenses in the early 1990s, should be released on his own recognizance. He was ordered to undergo weekly drug testing.

Outside the courthouse, Baxter's lawyer, Harold Martin, said he hadn't yet had a chance to talk extensively with his client.

"A lot of information is sketchy," Martin said. "I only talked to him briefly in the cell block."

But, he added: "I'm sure nobody feels worse about this whole scenario than Mr. Baxter. Reading his body language and having had an experience with him in the past, and knowing how he thinks, I'm sure he's embarrassed to be in the public eye. I can only imagine it's pretty devastating."

The Charlotte Bobcats acquired Baxter in the middle of last season after a trade with the Houston Rockets. Bobcats spokesman Scott Leightman said Baxter's contract expired in April, but he declined to say whether he had presented any discipline problems while with the club.

"He's not a member of our team," Leightman said. "His contract expired. We opted not to re-sign him. There's really nothing to comment on."

There was no comment from athletic department officials at Maryland or coach Gary Williams.

Baxter, who was a member of Maryland's 2001-02 national championship team before being drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2002, signed a one-year deal earlier this month with Italian team Montepaschi Siena. The Silver Spring native also played briefly for the Washington Wizards.

Baxter is the second member of Maryland's national championship team to be arrested on a handgun charge. Chris Wilcox was arrested in June 2005. Police arrested Wilcox after they reportedly found a gun in his car during a traffic stop, but the charges were dismissed in August.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Heather A. Dinich contributed to this article.

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