A former Baltimore police officer was found not liable yesterday in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleging assault and battery, unlawful seizure and violating the due process rights of a Pikesville man he fatally shot in 1998.
Shane C. Stufft, 29, now a patrol officer for Baltimore County police, fatally shot Derek Robert McIntosh, 25, on Jan. 13, 1998. McIntosh was shot once in the chest and once in the neck in a scuffle as Stufft attempted to arrest him on a narcotics charge.
The six-woman city Circuit Court jury deliberated for slightly more than 4 1/2 hours. Jurors apparently believed Stufft's testimony over that of Malik Green, who was 14 at the time and testified that he saw Stufft shoot McIntosh at point-blank range as McIntosh complied with the officer's orders.
Stufft said McIntosh was reaching for his gun.
"Ultimately, we all felt that the scenario basically for the area would lead you to believe those types of incidents could occur," said the jury forewoman, who asked not to be named. The shooting was in the 2200 block of Brunt St. in West Baltimore's Druid Heights neighborhood, an area known for drugs and violence.
She said she didn't think Stufft used excessive force. "I would think that was reasonable, and that would be reasonable for any other officer," she said.
Stufft declined to comment after the verdict. His girlfriend, Katie Wheatley, and father, Donald Stufft, said the family was relieved.
"I knew he was a good cop all along," the father said. "It has been a four-year ordeal for the family."
Sheila McIntosh Gray, who sued for more than $30 million, said afterward she wasn't bitter. "I felt that my attorneys did a really good job, and now I can have closure," she said. "I didn't get a chance to have a trial before. At least it was brought out in the open."
Eileen A. Carpenter and Myron T. Brown, who represented Stufft, said the forensic evidence corroborated Stufft's testimony. They also said the verdict confirmed that a city jury can be impartial in a case that involves an officer charged with using excessive force.
A. Dwight Pettit, one of Gray's attorneys, said it was a tough case. "We had no witnesses in the beginning until Mr. Green came forward," he said. "So basically you had a one-on-one situation with the police officer, which always creates a very difficult credibility problem in these types of cases."