John C. Ward, 65, says he was merely defending himself when he shot and wounded a much younger man who attacked him on a city street. A few days after the shooting, Ward's alleged assailant was charged with assault and robbery, and Ward was charged with illegally possessing a handgun.
William A. Swisher, the former city state's attorney and current mayoral candidate, claims the city crime rate is soaring while Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke "sits idly by -- doing absolutely nothing." He also says the "present city administration has created an atmosphere in which honest citizens live in fear of their lives."
Yesterday, Swisher, a city resident and Towson lawyer, held a news conference to announce that would go to court to defend Ward free of charge.
As he made his announcement, surrounded by television cameras and supporters at his campaign headquarters at 435 S. Robinson St., Swisher said he wanted to make one thing clear: He doesn't want politics to get in the way of the case.
Therefore, he said, he will ask that the case -- scheduled in city District Court for August -- be postponed until after the Sept. 12 primary election.
Swisher said he decided to defend Ward after recently meeting him on the campaign trail.
Ward told police he shot a young man in the 200 block of S. Parrish St. July 9 after the man demanded money and Ward refused to give it up.
Witnesses interviewed by police said they saw the younger man throw Ward, a slight man, against a garage in attempt to rob him.
Ward then drew a .22-caliber pistol and shot the man in the chest. He was treated at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore and was released July 13, according to a hospital official. That same day, James L. Crawford was charged with assault and robbery and was released on $10,000 bail, said police.
Ward was charged with possession of a handgun without a permit.
But Swisher said yesterday he doesn't believe the shy, elderly man should ever have been charged by the state's attorney's office because Ward was only trying to defend himself.
At the start of the campaign, former Mayor Clarence Du Burns and Swisher were expected to become Schmoke's leading opponents in the Democratic primary. So far, Burns and Swisher have done little to publicize their campaigns, but they say they will turn up the volume as the election approaches.