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Officer's colleagues take stand Co-workers testify Gorwell didn't say he'd been fired on


Five of Officer Edward T. Gorwell's Western District colleagues said yesterday he never mentioned that he had been fired on when they arrived at a park where he shot a 14-year-old suspected car thief.

Testifying as prosecution witnesses during Officer Gorwell's manslaughter trial in Baltimore Circuit Court, all five officers said they arrived at the shooting scene and found him standing next to a stolen car, pointing out where the carload of suspects had fled.

But, in testimony designed to discredit Officer Gorwell's contention that he believed he was returning fire, the officers said he did not say the suspects had shot at him.

"Were you aware at all of any shots being fired?" prosecutor Timothy J. Doory asked one of the patrol officers.

"No, sir," answered Officer Darrel Oxyer.

In his cross-examination of the officers, defense attorney Henry L. Belsky suggested that a police broadcast notifying other officers of shots fired would not have been received if the officer, in the tension surrounding a shooting, failed to wait through the two-second delay on his hand-held radio before talking.

Mr. Belsky also suggested that the trauma of being shot at could explain a failure to follow police procedures that require an officer to warn his colleagues that shots had been fired.

In testimony that may help Officer Gorwell, Officer Oxyer said that as police investigated the shooting later in the night, he heard a "small pop" that made him jump. After hearing the strange sound repeatedly through the night, the officer said he found that it apparently was coming from a loose manhole cover on a nearby bridge.

During testimony Wednesday, two men and a woman who live near the shooting scene told the jury they heard only one gunshot in the moments leading to the shooting. Also, prosecutors produced a tape of police radio calls involving the incident -- a tape that shows Officer Gorwell did not tell dispatchers or other police units that he had been fired on.

Mr. Belsky said yesterday he will present two witnesses who will say they heard more than one shot.

Officer Gorwell, 24, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter in the April 17 death of Simmont "Sam" Thomas, who was shot once at a densely wooded area at the edge of Gwynns Falls Park.

Four teen-agers took the stand yesterday, the second day of testimony in the trial, to say that they and the Thomas youth stole a Chrysler New Yorker parked across from Mondawmin Mall. They said police followed them through the streets of West Baltimore before a flat tire slowed them down and they bailed out in the darkness of the park and headed for the woods.

Quentin Montague, 17, described the moment when Officer Gorwell shot the Thomas youth.

"I heard a police yell something and I heard the word 'stop' and then a shot," he said.

The Montague youth also said he saw Officer Gorwell shoot the youth, prompting Mr. Belsky to ask why he had never volunteered such information to police or the grand jury that indicted the officer.

Not all of the teen-agers agreed on what they heard the officer say. Andre Handy, 16, said he heard the officer shout, "Come here, you m - - f - -," before the shot was fired.

Terrill Alexander, 14, said, "I was running fast, and then I heard a gunshot. I thought it was a shot in the air, like we were supposed to come back. I just kept running."

The teen-agers insisted that none of them had any guns that night. Pressed by Mr. Belsky to explain how he could be sure that none of his friends were armed, the Handy youth, answered, "Trust me, man, if they would've had a gun, they would have shown it to me right away."

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