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25 years ago: One deputy released from wrongful death civil suit, others seize 79 marijuana plants

1:52 PM EDT, August 1, 2012

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From The Aegis dated Aug. 6, 1987:

Crime and police news dominated the front page of The Aegis 25 years ago this week, when a sheriff's deputy was absolved of civil responsibility in the death of a mini-bike rider, other sheriff's deputies seized almost 80 marijuana plants from a Bel Air construction area, local residents helped solve the "crime of the week" and police announced the suspect in a chase and shooting a week earlier may have been on crack cocaine.

The sheriff's deputy was released from a $5 million civil suit filed after the death of a teenage motorbike rider two years previously. He had been accused of contributing to the death of a 14-year-old boy after an early morning chase in May 1985. The deputy chased the teenager, about whom police had received complaints of disturbing residents, who eventually ran into a curb and was thrown from the bike, killing him. The suit was filed in December 1985.

Though deputies wouldn't give a specific location of where, deputies seized 79 marijuana plants that would have had a street value of $10,000 after it was harvested from a Bel Air construction site. The plants were set on fire to be destroyed after deputies spent two hours uprooting them.

Police had no suspects and said their main concern was destroying the plants before the marijuana could be distributed.

"If we were going to pursue the case, we wouldn't have destroyed the plants," Maj. Jesse Bane, the sheriff's office spokesman, said. "But we don't have a whole lot to go on. We would have to prove that it was being manufactured and intent to distribute. We just have plants in a field."

An arrest was made in the third "crime of the week" in just nine weeks, thanks to a tip from the public. A Havre de Grace man was charged less than two days of the Harford County Crime Solvers publicizing that he was wanted in connection with a rape in March. Police had been looking for the man, but he had managed to elude them until the "crime of the week" was published.

And finally, the man with whom they exchanged gunfire a week before may have been under the influence of "crack," though police declined to comment publicly. Two bystanders were injured - a 16-year-old was wounded in the head and a 26-year-old man was grazed on the arm with a bullet.

After four weeks of being open on Sundays, local businesses were reporting increased sales, despite mixed reviews from shoppers. The public relations director for Hecht's at Harford Mall said although July is typically a slow shopping month, sales for 1987 were up from a year before, and business wasn't down on other shopping days.

"Overall, Sunday shopping is definitely a plus," Gerald Smith said.

Some mall shoppers liked the idea, while others argued that opening Sundays was "ridiculous" and "immaterial."

The boards of directors of the parent company of Harford's two hospitals – Fallston General and Harford Memorial – and the hospitals were under scrutiny 25 years ago by the NAACP for lack of minority representation. Members of both boards were all white and all men, and the civil rights group president though a black should be considered for a seat on one of the boards.

There "isn't any semblance of racial balance on the three boards," Eugene Chandler, of the NAACP, said in a letter to Upper Chesepeake's president and CEO. He added the local branch was making a concerted effort to address the imbalance.

Plaza Ford was hosting a 72-hour sale 25 years ago this week, when a 1987 Ford Escort started at $5,895. The dealership had 50 F150s in stock – they were being offered a free Duraliner bedliner. Customers could save up to $3,000 on leisure vans or get $1,000 cash back on Ford Rangers.