Policeman posts $500,000 bond

March 26, 2009|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

On his sixth wedding anniversary and two days before he and his wife were due to close on their first home, Baltimore City police Officer Patrick A. Dotson was brought into a courtroom with his hands shackled after spending a night in Central Booking, accused of two counts of attempted murder.

As his sister spoke to retired District Court Judge Charlotte M. Cooksey about his military service in Afghanistan and his role as a father, the weight of the circumstances appeared to catch up to him. Dotson's face turned red, and he fought to hold back tears.

Dotson, 26, was released after posting $500,000 bond Wednesday. City police say he got into a fight at a Canton bar March 9 and fired his service weapon at a car as it drove away through a closing-time crowd. The bullet hit near the vehicle's gas tank. It took investigators two weeks to confirm that the suspect they were pursuing was one of their own.

Prosecutor David Chiu called Dotson an "extreme risk to the community" and said "if the allegations are true, he should not be a police officer."

"Many victims in this city are innocent bystanders who happen to be at the wrong place as someone is firing shots," Chiu said. "The bullet was fired at the gas tank, and had the car exploded, the result would have been catastrophic, not only for the two people in the car but anyone in the community."

Margaret Burns, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said Wednesday that prosecutors will dismiss all misdemeanor cases in which Dotson and Fontaine Smallwood - who was also at the bar and has been suspended - are the sole police witnesses. Felony cases will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, she said.

Dotson, who works on a special task force targeting drugs in the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, is listed as a police witness on more than 30 cases filed this month alone, and dozens more have yet to be adjudicated.

A public defender, who acknowledged a conflict of interest in representing Dotson in lieu of an attorney from the Fraternal Order of Police, argued for a reasonable bail and had Dotson's sister address the judge.

"He is a good citizen in the community," she said. "He is a good father, a good son, a good husband, and most importantly, he is a God-fearing man."

The shooting occurred eight hours after a tavern owner said he was forced out of his establishment at gunpoint by Dotson and Smallwood. The owner held a news conference last week to air his allegations.

Attorney Granville Templeton III said client Raymond Nelson has filed a notice of intention to sue the Police Department after he was taken from inside Chopper's Tavern and forced to sit on a curb while handcuffed for about an hour. Templeton said police had no reason to detain Nelson.

Templeton said that he is also calling on State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy to file assault charges in connection with that incident, given that Dotson is now accused of shooting at someone later that night.

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