Tense testimony marks officer's trial in killing


They stood face-to-face, play-acting yesterday in front of the jury box.

The prosecutor portrayed the unarmed suspect, a 25-year-old man who would soon be shot dead. Officer Shean D. Camper, a year younger and on trial for a manslaughter charge, played himself.

Under the prosecutor's insistent demands that he precisely describe the suspect's threatening stance, Officer Camper lashed out:

"Sir, I can't give you an exact position," the officer yelled at Assistant State's Attorney Edwin O. Wenck. "You ask me to play it back like a videotape. I'm not a videotape. I'm a human being.

"I've been going through this damn thing for so many months. There's a lot of pressure," the officer continued. "I thought that man was going to kill me."

The 24-year-old police officer's outburst came 45 minutes into frequently tense cross-examination and on the fifth day of his manslaughter trial in Baltimore Circuit Court. It came under the questioning of Mr. Wenck, questioning that at one point prompted the officer's attorney, Henry L. Belsky, to scream, "Let him answer the question!"

The trial, expected to continue through tomorrow and into next week, features distinctly different versions of the May 6, 1994, shooting of Jerrod Dwayne Wagstaff. Mr. Wagstaff, 25, was killed in a side yard in the 2700 block of Tivoly Ave. in Northeast Baltimore.

To Mr. Belsky, it also has included unfounded suggestions that some police officers may be trying to help their colleague out of his jam.

Prosecution witnesses have described a slip-shod crime scene, with suggestions that the shell casing may have been moved into the side yard to support the officer's claims. Mr. Wenck presented three witnesses who said Officer Camper fired into the darkness of the side yard from a front porch, contradicting the officer's version that he chased the man into the yard.

Asked yesterday if those witnesses were mistaken, Officer Camper replied: "They're lying."

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