City officer pleads not guilty in fatal shooting

August 30, 2008|By Gus G. Sentementes

A city police officer who was indicted last month in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man at a Northeast Baltimore shopping center entered a plea of not guilty in city Circuit Court yesterday.

Officer Tommy Sanders III, a five-year veteran, stood next to his union attorney, Henry L. Belsky, who entered the plea for him and asked for a jury trial before Judge W. Michel Pierson. Sanders is charged with manslaughter.

Sanders is accused of shooting Edward Lamont Hunt, 27, at the Hamilton Park Shopping Center on Jan. 30.

At the time of the shooting, police officials said Sanders stopped to interview and frisk Hunt because he had been deemed suspicious. A witness said at the time that the officer searched Hunt twice and tried to cuff him, when a struggle ensued and Hunt started to run away when he was shot in the back. No weapon was found, but police said they found drugs at the scene.

Outside the courtroom yesterday, Belsky said Sanders acted to protect himself and the public after Hunt resisted arrest.

"When a person chooses to resist arrest, he puts himself in a zone of danger that most citizens don't do," Belsky told reporters.

When asked by a reporter whether he had thoroughly searched Hunt, Sanders laughed lightly and shook his head. He would not comment.

Indictments of police officers in shooting cases are rare. The last conviction of an officer occurred in 1997, after Sgt. Stephen R. Pagotto was accused of shooting Preston E. Barnes the year before. That conviction was later overturned by the Court of Appeals.

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