Shooting Was Not A First For Officer

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 9, 2006

A Prince George's police sniper who fatally shot a suicidal murder suspect this week in a Seat Pleasant park was identified last night by police as Cpl. Francis A. Masino, an officer with a history of misconduct allegations.

In 1993, Masino shot and critically wounded an unarmed man outside the Prince George's County courthouse. Two years later, he opened fire again, seriously wounding an unarmed motorist in Mitchellville. And in 1998, a federal jury ordered him to pay $113,000 to a pregnant woman he had allegedly attacked in a rage after her dog defecated on his lawn.

The police department cleared Masino of all the misconduct allegations in the incidents.

The man Masino shot this week, Denard Mason, had just admitted to slaying his girlfriend, a Bowie State University student, and setting a fire to cover up the killing, police said.

The student, Calida S. Williams, was found Sunday, her 28th birthday, inside her blazing apartment in Landover Hills.

Mason was married and was having an affair with Williams, who was also his second cousin, according to two police sources who did not want to be identified because the case is under investigation. According to the sources, Williams's throat was slashed before her apartment was set on fire.

Mason was interviewed by police Monday night about Williams's death and was released. On Tuesday morning, he became despondent and suicidal, and engaged police in a standoff for several hours in a park near Dateleaf Avenue and Blacklog Street.

He repeatedly put a gun inside his mouth, and he told police he was not going to jail, the sources said.

When Mason walked toward officers with his gun, Masino fired once, hitting Mason in the upper body, according to police. He died at the scene.

The police department is reviewing the incident, as it does all police shootings.

Percy Alston, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, called Masino, a 24-year veteran of the department, an "excellent" officer.

"Tony did what he had to do to protect other officers as well as the citizens of our county," Alston said. "It's a tragic and unfortunate incident that was caused by the actions of Mr. Mason."

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