Police: Man shot by District Heights officer was handcuffed, attempting to flee

September 7, 2012

A District Heights police sergeant shot a handcuffed suspect in the back Thursday afternoon, inflicting a serious wound as the man tried to flee, according to authorities, law enforcement officials and family members.

Calvin Kyle, 26, had been pulled over, handcuffed and put in a police cruiser after he was seen riding a stolen motorcycle near County Road and Marlboro Pike in District Heights, law enforcement officials said. But as District Heights Police Sgt. Johnnie Riley attended to other matters, Kyle got out of the cruiser and began to run, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

That’s when Riley shot Kyle in the back, the officials said.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Latonya Kyle, 24, Calvin Kyle’s sister. “I do understand that he was wrong and you got to take some responsibility for what you’re doing, but no one deserves to be shot in the back by anyone.”

District Heights Deputy Police Chief Wendell Brantley said Riley had been placed on paid administrative leave while Prince George’s County homicide detectives investigate the incident — which is standard practice for police shootings involving officers from smaller municipal agencies. The District Heights Police Department, which serves a city about one square mile in size, has 12 officers and a handful of other employees, according to the department Web site.

Efforts to reach Riley were unsuccessful. A lawyer who represents him in an unrelated case said he could not comment on the incident. Several municipal police union officials did not return messages.

Brantley would not comment on the precise sequence of events that led to the shooting, which happened about 5:20 p.m. Julie Parker, a Prince George’s County police spokeswoman, confirmed that Kyle was handcuffed when he was shot. She said investigators were working with the Prince George’s State’s Attorney’s Office to determine whether criminal charges might be warranted against Riley.

Kyle’s family members said that they had been unable to speak with Kyle because he was in police custody at the hospital, but that doctors, nurses and police officers told them that he had suffered a serious spinal wound. Family members said that they had been told that Kyle was in and out of consciousness and had no feeling in his legs. It was unclear, they said, if he would walk again, though it appeared he would survive.

“It’s up to the good Lord to go on and fix that situation,” said Barbara Lightfoot, 72, Kyle’s great-grandmother.

Kyle, who also seems to use the name Kalvin Kyle, is the father of two young children and enjoys playing basketball in his free time, family members said. But family members acknowledged that he has had frequent run-ins with the law.

Kyle was shot by an off-duty police officer several years ago after he apparently tried to carjack the officer’s vehicle near Seat Pleasant, according to news reports at the time and family members. More recently, he moved out of his mother’s home to avoid an open warrant on theft and malicious destruction of property charges, according to family members and court records. His children lived elsewhere, family members said.

Court records also show that Kyle has been convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon, theft and fleeing and eluding. In a 2009 incident, Kyle fled from police in a stolen car in Prince George’s County, running into two other vehicles before crashing into a creek bed, the records show.

Latonya Kyle said that although her brother has spent time in jail, he “never like hurt anyone, threatened anyone, or has been a threat to anyone.”

“He’s not like that. He just has a problem with stealing cars,” Latonya Kyle said. “They never like helped him. He’d just go to jail for it and nothing happens.”

Court records show that Riley, who has been on the police force for eight years, was sued in 2010 by a North Carolina woman who accused him of assaulting and pepper-spraying her while she was visiting relatives in District Heights.

Kimberly Eatmon, a 44-year-old substance abuse counselor, said that when Riley pulled her over in May 2010, he initially refused to say why he did so, instead demanding her driver’s license. She said that Riley eventually accused her of losing control of her vehicle and not wearing a seat belt, and when she disputed the accusations and refused to sign the tickets, he pepper-sprayed her and pulled her violently from her car.

“He’s like a ticking time bomb,” Eatmon said.

Daniel Karp, the lawyer representing Riley and the city of District Heights in that case, said that Riley maintains he was acting as any police officer would. He said that Riley had pulled over Eatmon because she “almost ran him off the road” and pepper-sprayed her because she “grabbed the steering wheel and fought him.” The tickets and the criminal charges against Eatmon were later dropped, and the civil case is scheduled to go to trial in November, court records show.

Karp said he could not comment on Thursday’s shooting. Brantley, the District Heights deputy police chief, said he could not comment on previous incidents Riley was involved in because it would violate personnel rules.

Kyle’s family members said they hope that Riley will be kicked off the force and face criminal charges. They said they cannot understand why Riley did not simply tackle Kyle — who walked with a limp from the previous police shooting — or shoot him with a Taser.

“God have mercy on they souls, because it’s sad,” Lightfoot said. “I could see this officer protecting himself if my grandson was threatening him in any kind of way, but that was not the case.”

Staff researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.
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