Officer may have blocked firefighter from helping teen-age shooting victim; Youth died at scene; investigation continues


A Baltimore police sergeant who blocked a firefighter from checking on a shooting victim, insisting that the youngster was dead and the crime scene needed to be preserved, might have acted inappropriately, police officials said.

Police said Darien Ward, 15, probably died moments after he was shot Jan. 8 and before firefighters arrived at the scene near a Northeast Baltimore corner.

Detectives said he was killed in a robbery.

Police agreed that firefighters and paramedics need immediate access to victims because they are trained to determine when to declare someone dead and whether treatment should be administered.

"Our first priority is the victim, regardless of anything else," said Police Maj. Arthur Smith, commander of the Northeastern District and the sergeant's boss. "Protecting the crime scene is second. If anything was done differently, then we'll address it."

Police continued their investigation yesterday, seeking interviews with the firefighters.

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman, said his agency also is investigating. He said police officers are allowed to pronounce people dead in "obvious cases," such as a decapitation or a decomposed body.

Officials declined to release the name of the sergeant, a 25-year veteran, because of the internal investigation.

The issue became public this week when an anonymous person claiming to be a firefighter called two local television stations, which aired reports saying Ward, a Patterson High School freshman, might have survived had he received prompt medical attention.

Carlos Olaquer, a union official for Firefighters Local 734, said Thursday that Ward was shot at least 15 minutes before firefighters arrived, making survival unlikely with the severe upper body wound.

But he added, "If I were a police officer, I would want someone else to check."

Police said the shooting was discovered about 9: 45 p.m. by a man who saw Ward lying in snow near Belair Road and Seidel Avenue, walked to a nearby convenience store and told an officer 10 minutes later.

Smith said the officer ran to the scene and called for an ambulance at 9: 58 p.m. Medic 3 and Truck 26 -- based on Mannasota Avenue -- were dispatched at 9: 59 p.m. Truck 26 arrived at the scene at 10: 03 p.m.

By then, police said, officers had checked Ward's vital signs, determined he had died and put yellow tape around the scene. Firefighters were not allowed to cross the tape.

The ambulance, which was responding from another call, arrived at 10: 10 p.m. and paramedics were given access. Police reports show that a paramedic pronounced Ward dead at 10: 12 p.m.

Pub Date: 1/16/99

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