Federal probe of police shooting sought

March 14, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Calling an uptick in police shootings troubling, two state delegates and the head of the local NAACP called on the federal government yesterday to investigate a recent fatal shooting by a Baltimore police officer who has shot three people since June 2007.

Dels. Jill Carter and Curtis S. Anderson and Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, did not raise specific concerns about Friday's shooting in Northwest Baltimore, in which 30-year-old Shawn Cannady later died. But they said the officer's two prior shootings and questions raised about his earlier use of force merit an outside review.

"There are officers who go their entire career and never find it necessary to shoot or kill anyone," said Carter, a Democrat. She said Cannady was unarmed and that there was no evidence he had committed a crime. "It definitely calls for further investigation.."

Police said last weekend that Cannady was behind the wheel of a vehicle that struck an officer. Another officer, who has been identified by The Baltimore Sun as Detective Jemell Rayam, fired at Cannady, striking him in the upper body.

Rayam's two prior shootings were both deemed justified, and both victims survived.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment on Friday's incident, which is under routine review. But he said police are often in dangerous situations.

"We have tasked our police officers with focusing on the most violent offenders," Guglielmi said. "Bad guys with guns fight back."

Robert F. Cherry, president of the police union, said Rayam's past shootings should not have a bearing on the current investigation, adding that the Fraternal Order of Police supports him. He said he welcomed a review after the department's investigation is done.

Cheatham, however, said members of the community are questioning the shooting.

"It may have been justified, but there's enough there that someone needs to ask questions," Cheatham said.

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