Man sentenced to 10 years in police officer's death

Sian James was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for hurling a chunk of concrete that killed an off-duty Baltimore police officer last year during a heated argument over a parking space.

James, 26, was charged with murder in the death of Detective Brian Stevenson, but a jury convicted him in April of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 10-year prison term.


His attorney said James — who was out on bail during the incident in a separate case charging him with the attempted rape of an ex-girlfriend — acted in self-defense, believing the officer was intoxicated and intended to shoot him and his friends.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams said the court was "beside itself" over the "senselessness of it all."

"We have a life that is lost," Williams said. "This did not have to happen."

Saturday, Oct. 16., was the eve of Stevenson's 38th birthday. It was supposed to be a night of celebration for him.

It was also meant to be a night of celebration for James, who had gathered with a half-dozen others at a friend's home that night, planning to head out to local bars, according to trial testimony. One of the women in the group walked to a nearby parking lot on Hudson Street to reserve a spot for someone else.

She picked an open space and took up de facto possession, court records show, but a black Escalade slid into the spot over her objections. Stevenson, who had been out to dinner, was the driver.

James and his roommate arrived at the lot soon after and confronted Stevenson. James eventually picked up a chunk of concrete and threw it, fracturing Stevenson's skull.

Stevenson's wife asked the court Wednesday: "What man now is responsible for our family? Who do we belong to?"

Prosecutor Charles Blomquist described Stevenson, an 18-year force veteran, as a good-humored and well-loved man whose death shattered a family and led to citywide reflection about aggression.

"It should give us pause as to what is and how do we live in a civilized society," Blomquist said. "Responding with violence is clearly not the answer."

His words recalled a similar situation that happened four months before Stevenson's death.

In June last year, Officer Gahiji Tshamba killed Tyrone Brown outside a Baltimore bar after an argument escalated out of control. Tshamba was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and is scheduled for sentencing next month. The judge in that case, Edward R. K. Hargadon, also deemed it a senseless death.

"The defendant grossly overreacted and in fact exacerbated this whole tragic set of events," Hargadon said.

Stevenson's mother told the court Wednesday that her days are now filled with crying and her nights are sleepless. "I will never forgive you," she said to James.


Her only other son said the loss for him and his family has been tremendous. "I don't have any more brothers," he said.

Stevenson's wife asked how she would ever heal, stop leaving the porch light on, learn to live without her husband. There will be no growing old together, no walking down the aisle when their daughter is married, and no more "I love yous" in his voice, she said.

When it was James' turn to speak, he faced his victim's family. "The unfortunate situation with Mr. Stevenson has affected me more than you could ever imagine," he said, reading from a handwritten page.

"Never in a million years did I intend to take his life," James said. "The severity of this reality will stay with me for as long as I live."

James is scheduled for trial next month in the attempted-rape case.