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Prosecutors ordered officers in fatal shooting be read Miranda rights

Baltimore officers involved in fatal shooting were read Miranda rights on tape at prosecutors' direction

The Baltimore police officers involved in Thursday's fatal shooting of a father and son armed with weapons were videotaped being read their Miranda rights at the direction of prosecutors after declining to give statements, a police union attorney said.

Michael Davey, the attorney, said it was the first time he could recall such a move by prosecutors in 16 years working with the police union.

"These guys should get a medal for what they did, instead of being treated like criminals by the state's attorney's office," Davey said.

Rochelle Ritchie, spokeswoman for the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office, said it has always been a standard practice for all police-involved shootings to provide officers with their Miranda rights. She said Davey's recollection is not consistent with the common practice to record such interviews.

Police held a news conference Friday in which they detailed how three officers were on patrol in Greenmount West on Thursday afternoon when they encountered Matthew Wood Jr., 42, and his son, Kimani Johnson, 18. They were armed with a semiautomatic rifle and a pistol. Police said the men appeared poised to fire on a group of people across the street, near a playground.

The officers, identified as Sgt. Joseph Wiczulis and Officer Norman Jones, fired 56 shots; Wood and Johnson fired none. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said the officers fired until the "threat was eliminated."

Officers can maintain their right to remain silent in a criminal investigation, which is initiated after every officer-involved shooting. The Police Department can compel an officer to speak, but according to state law those remarks can only be used in an administrative investigation.

Davey said he advised the officers not to give statements immediately after the shooting.

"It was a traumatic incident, and they were not ready to give a statement," Davey said. "They have a constitutional right not to give a voluntary statement, and I made the decision that I was not comfortable with them giving a formal statement."

Davey said prosecutors were frustrated by the officers' refusal to speak, and ordered that they be videotaped being read their Miranda rights and declining to answer questions.

"In 16 years representing officers in the Baltimore Police Department, I've never seen it happen," Davey said.

Wiczulis has been involved in two previous shootings. In 2010, Thomas Tavon Miller shot two officers in East Baltimore. Those officers, along with Wiczulis, fired back, killing Miller. In 2013, he was involved in a fatal shooting in the Douglass Homes housing project. Police said Donte Bennett ran through a courtyard and past a playground before he took out a handgun and was shot. His mother called for an independent investigation at the time.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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