Baltimore police have charged a city officer with attempted murder, accusing him of firing his service weapon during an off-duty fight outside a Canton nightclub this month.
Police said Officer Patrick A. Dotson, 26, who has been on the force two years and was assigned to a special task force in the Central District, was suspended Monday when investigators determined that he was involved in the March 8 incident outside Fins on the Square in the 2900 block of O'Donnell St.
Dotson and other officers got into an argument with other patrons in the bar that turned into a fight and spilled outside about closing time, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Dotson is accused of firing his weapon at a vehicle, hitting it in the rear. The men in the car left the scene and called 911.
Guglielmi said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III suspended Dotson immediately after he was identified as a suspect.
"The commissioner has zero tolerance for this kind of thing," Guglielmi said.
Dustin Jackson, 25, who suffered two chipped teeth in the skirmish, said he did not know the man who fired the shots at his car was an officer until he was contacted by internal affairs. He said the shots were fired as he tried to leave the area.
"My buddy saw the guy who I had been getting in a fight with and said, 'Oh crap, he's got a gun,' " Jackson said. "That's when we saw him pull it from his side and fire the shot."
Jackson said that the bullet struck his gas tank. He said he was concerned that the other officers involved did not try to intervene and that none of them reported the incident. "Why wouldn't you come forward?" he said.
A source with knowledge of the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case said that bar staff was familiar with at least one of the officers, leading to the identification of the officers who were suspended.
Guglielmi said another officer, Fontaine W. Smallwood, has been suspended but is not expected to face criminal charges. A female officer who was with them has not been disciplined.
As a pair, Dotson and Smallwood have brought charges in numerous drug cases that are pending in District and Circuit courts. Guglielmi said they work on an initiative focused on the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, and records indicate they are assigned to the Western District. It was unclear how the suspensions would affect the pending cases.
Robert F. Cherry, president of the city police union, said that as a young officer Dotson had separated himself from the pack in a short time by landing on a task force that patrolled the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor. He said that Dotson should be presumed innocent but also praised the work of police investigators probing the case.
Several officers have recently faced criminal charges. Officer Robert H. Gordon, 44, and his wife were charged with stealing from an Owings Mills Wal-Mart. Robert Knotts, 24, a new recruit who was participating in field training in the Northwest District, was suspended after being charged this month with first-degree assault in Baltimore County.
Next week, Detective Terry Love Jr., 32, is scheduled to go on trial in the beating of a man outside a Govans barbershop. Tommy Sanders III, 38, is set to go to trial on charges of manslaughter. He is accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man while on duty.
And this month, a police trial board recommended the firing of Officer Christopher Vallejo, 32, who in February 2008 was found guilty of assaulting a woman in Federal Hill.
Jackson said that his experience was troubling but that it did not change his opinion of the Police Department.
"One bad apple doesn't spoil the bunch to me," Jackson said. "From how it's been handled ... to me, it's been very thorough, and internal affairs done an excellent job."