Three decades after Charles A. Hopkins shot to death a Baltimore councilman and wounded several others inside a temporary City Hall, a judge still felt uneasy yesterday about reducing the man's level of confinement.
Hopkins, 66, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1976 shootings. Since then, he has spent most of his life at mental facilities in treatment for schizophrenia.
He lived in a halfway house for several years, then was released conditionally in 2002. That was revoked when he began smoking marijuana.
Yesterday, a public defender asked Baltimore Circuit Judge John M. Glynn to allow Hopkins to move from the locked Spring Grove mental hospital to a less secure residential program on the grounds.
A city prosecutor did not object to the move but wanted Hopkins to be electronically monitored at all times. The public defender said that was not necessary.
Glynn expressed doubts throughout the hearing, asking several times why he should "have any faith" that the community would be safe from Hopkins.
"We're talking about trying to predict violence," the judge said, which is difficult to do.
After approving the move, Glynn ordered Hopkins to be electronically monitored in his new location for six months. He said he would hold a hearing in March to see how Hopkins was doing.
Angered about his carryout restaurant being shut down, Hopkins stormed a temporary City Hall office on Calvert Street on April 13, 1976, looking for Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
Instead, he found and killed City Councilman Dominic M. Leone Sr. and wounded another councilman, a mayoral aide and a city police officer.
The father of former Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. suffered a heart attack and died after the shootings.
None of the victims or their relatives attended yesterday's hearing.