Head of Baltimore County police union investigated

Driver says Weston smacked him and threatened him with gun

March 25, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

The head of the Baltimore County police union is under investigation after being accused of assaulting a driver late Wednesday in Parkville.

The driver, who works for a sedan service, said in a complaint that Sgt. Cole B. Weston cursed at him, accused him of being a drug dealer, smacked him in the face and pointed a gun at him. A police report of the incident says that Weston, who was off duty and in plainclothes, appeared intoxicated.

Hosseim Taranpisheh, 51, told police he was waiting for a customer to return to the car and pay him for a ride when Weston approached and began berating him. The customer, Sean Manigault, told police that when he saw Weston draw his gun, he ran into the woods until other officers arrived.

Weston, 48, who has been a police officer since 1984, has not been charged in the incident.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said Friday that, because the Fraternal Order of Police had endorsed him in his campaign for re-election, he has referred the Weston case to the Harford County state's attorney's office to avoid any conflict of interest.

A Baltimore County police spokesman confirmed that the matter is being investigated internally by the department.

Weston could not be reached for comment about the incident, which was first reported by WBAL-TV, and his attorney did not respond to a message.

A police report based on interviews with the three men said that Weston, who lives nearby and is the head of his neighborhood's community association, approached Taranpisheh's Toyota Camry after it had pulled up to an address on Dendron Court about 11 p.m. to drop Manigault at his home. As Manigault returned to the car with money, Weston, wearing a blue suit and red tie, asked who he was and then told Manigault he knew his girlfriend, a teacher.

Turning his attention to Taranpisheh, the driver, Weston "asked him what he was doing there," according to the report. "Weston then began to curse at him and accuse him of being a drug dealer."

Weston began hitting the roof of the gold-colored car with both hands, prompting Taranpisheh, who had remained seated in the vehicle, to tell his customer to call 911, the report said. Weston, it said, then reached into the Toyota and struck Taranpisheh on the side of the face with his hand.

"Weston then stepped back and pulled a handgun from his waist band and pointed it at [Taranpisheh's] face, saying, 'You sit in the car. I'm a police officer,'" according to the report. "Weston continued to yell at him until the police arrived."

Weston's colleagues, whom he represents in employment matters as their union's chief officer, did not arrest him but listed the incident as a possible case of first-degree assault. An ambulance was summoned and paramedics examined Taranpisheh, but he declined medical treatment.

The sergeant told the officers that he had returned home and observed a vehicle at the end of the street that "appeared suspicious to him," the report said. Weston said there had been problems with "drug activity in the neighborhood," and that when he asked Taranpisheh why he was parked there, the driver "began to argue with him and became belligerent." He said that when Manigault approached, he too was confrontational.

Weston said he "feared for his safety because of the recent problems in the area, and thought he was about to possibly be assaulted" by the two men. He acknowledged pulling his gun from his waistband, but said he held it at his side and did not point it at anyone. Weston denied having hit Taranpisheh in the face.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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