A high-ranking Baltimore fire official who was promoted yesterday to a top command position in the department pleaded guilty more than two decades ago to misdemeanor charges for shooting his girlfriend in the chest.
Fire Chief Herman Williams Jr. said he was aware of the incident but stressed the "exemplary leadership" of now Assistant Chief Carl E. McDonald, who is in charge of emergency medical services.
"He's been in leadership positions, and he certainly has been well respected by his peers and the men under him," Williams said.
The chief added that should such an incident occur today, "I would not tolerate it. But this was something that happened over 20 years ago."
"He doesn't carry a weapon. He's not going to arrest anybody. I looked strictly at his performance. He is the most qualified person for that position," he said.
But the head of a center that is called upon to counsel judges regarded as insensitive to domestic violence urged the Fire Department to rescind the promotion, accusing officials of ignoring the issue.
"I think the Fire Department has to review its decision to promote and acknowledge that this is not the type of person we want there," said Carole Alexander, executive director of the House of Ruth, a shelter for battered women in Baltimore.
"The public expects that, like police officers, fire officers will be role models for the community," she said. "I'm not certain that this guy is a role model for anybody."
McDonald, 58, declined to discuss the incident, which occurred Aug. 2, 1976, during an argument with his girlfriend after an evening at the Pink Pony Lounge at West North Avenue and North Monroe Street.
"My personal life has nothing to do with my job," McDonald said in a brief interview yesterday. "I don't discuss my private life. The incident hasn't raised any questions, and I've been in a command position for over 20 years."
McDonald had been charged with assault with intent to murder and handgun violations for shooting Veronica White twice, including once in the chest, with a .38-caliber revolver. White, who could not be located yesterday, declined to press the charges, both felonies.
Prosecutors pursued the case, and McDonald, then a captain, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault and possession of a deadly weapon and was given a suspended 18-month sentence and a year of probation. The judge noted that White "was willing to forgive" McDonald.
Less than a week after he pleaded guilty, McDonald was promoted to battalion chief. The president of the fire board said at the time, "When we have a non-job-related misdemeanor, I think we will go ahead and promote."
McDonald has not been arrested since that incident and has no other criminal record, according to a review of court files.
Pub Date: 7/23/98