Pros­e­cu­tors clear of­fi­cers in 2 deaths

Fa­ther and son were killed when po­lice be­lieved they were go­ing to shoot

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Justin Fen­ton jfen­ton@balt­sun.com

Bal­ti­more pros­e­cu­tors have de­cided not to charge two po­lice of­fi­cers who this spring fired 56 unan­swered rounds at a fa­ther and son who were armed with loaded guns in East Bal­ti­more, killing both.

The state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice did not pub­licly dis­close the de­ci­sion, which was handed down on Sept. 23. Po­lice noted that the case had been de­clined on a new “use of force” section on their web­site.

Pros­e­cu­tors wrote in an email to The Bal­ti­more Sun Tues­day that they “have con­cluded that there is no le­gal ba­sis to charge these of­fi­cers, who ap­pear to have pre­vented even fur­ther vi­o­lence on the streets of Bal­ti­more.”

Sgt. Joseph Wiczulis and Of­fi­cer Nor­man Jones were in plain clothes with another of­fi­cer in the 400 block of E. Lanville St. on March 31 when they saw Matthew V. Wood, 43, and Ki­mani John­son, 18, drive into the block near a play­ground, and emerge from a ve­hi­cle hold­ing weapons, po­lice said.

Po­lice said at the time that they be­lieved the men were poised to shoot a group of peo­ple across the street. Af­ter the flurry of gun­fire po­lice de­ter­mined Wood and John­son had not fired any shots.

Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis hailed the of­fi­cers at the time for con­fronting the men and said they pre­vented a shoot­ing.

Tawanda John­son, Ki­mani’s mother, said Tues­day that she had not been told that pros­e­cu­tors had de­clined to charge the of­fi­cers. She said she was up­set with that de­ci­sion, and with an over­all lack of in­for­ma­tion pro­vided about the case.

“They wouldn’t shoot a stray dog 56 times,” she said. “They shot my son as if he meant noth­ing.”

John­son pointed to the third of­fi­cer, who was at the scene with Jones and Wiczulis but did not fire his weapon.

The fact that one of the of­fi­cers did not fire “sets the tone to me,” she said. “That says to me his life was not in jeop­ardy. Some­thing is fishy. It’s been fishy from day one.”

De­spite in­creased scru­tiny on po­lice shoot­ings across the coun­try, charges against of­fi­cers re­main rare, with pros­e­cu­tors af­firm­ing po­lice ac­tions.

City pros­e­cu­tors this year cleared a com­man­der who shot an un­armed man who po­lice said re­fused to take his hands from his pock­ets, say­ing the com­man­der couldn’t risk the pos­si­bil­ity that the man was hold­ing a weapon.

But pros­e­cu­tors also won an as­sault con­vic­tion against an of­fi­cer who fired an un­pro­voked shot into the groin of a bur­glary sus­pect.

City of­fi­cers have shot nine peo­ple this year, killing four. Six cases re­main un­der re­view by the Bal­ti­more state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

Doc­u­ments pro­vided un­der a Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest show po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors lo­cated only two non-po­lice wit­nesses to the Lan­vale shoot­ing, a cou­ple who looked out of a bed­room win­dow af­ter hear­ing shots fired.

One of them, whose name was redacted by pros­e­cu­tors, said he saw Wood­stand­ing in front of a ve­hi­cle point­ing a ri­fle. He said he be­lieved he saw Wood fir­ing, while John­son was ly­ing be­hind a ve­hi­cle.

Of­fi­cer Regi­nald Jones, the of­fi­cer who did not fire, told po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors that the of­fi­cers had been in the area due to vi­o­lence and drug com­plaints when they saw Wood open the driver’s side door and emerge with the ri­fle in his lap, the doc­u­ments show.

“You all wanna talk s---?” Wood said to a group of three peo­ple be­fore rais­ing the ri­fle, Regi­nald Jones told in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Regi­nald Jones said he yelled “gun!” and said Wood turned to­ward Nor­man Jones. Regi­nald Jones took cover. He said Wiczulis fired and he saw John­son go down.

An au­topsy showed John­son was shot 12 times in his body, arms, legs and head. Wood was struck eight times, also in the body, arms, legs and head.

“Our de­ci­sion to de­cline pros­e­cu­tion in this case was based on a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion where the state­ments of at least two in­de­pen­dent wit­nesses at the scene of the shoot­ing were con­sis­tent with the po­lice of­fi­cers’ ac­count of the event that both men were armed — one with a loaded as­sault ri­fle and the other with a loaded hand­gun,” pros­e­cu­tors said Tues­day.

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