Deputy Cleared in Shooting of Unarmed Man

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Calvert County grand jury cleared a Calvert sheriff's deputy of criminal wrongdoing yesterday in the recent shooting of an unarmed motorist who was fleeing from him, even as the local branch of the NAACP raised questions about the Jan. 10 incident.

Laura Martin, chief prosecutor in Calvert, said the grand jury specifically determined that the deputy, Joseph Windsor, hadn't used excessive or unjustified force, siding with the sheriff's office statements that the deputy fired because the man, Robert L. Commodore, 26, was reaching for his waistband and turning toward him.

Martin said the grand jury did recommend that the sheriff's office change some procedures. She said she forwarded those recommendations to Sheriff Mike Evans. Neither could immediately provide details.

In a statement released yesterday, Joyce Freeland, president of the Calvert NAACP branch, said the organization was "outraged and appalled" over the shooting because Commodore was fleeing and apparently shot in his back. The NAACP branch said that "it is alleged the deputy sheriff kicked" the suspect, who is black, after the shooting. Sheriff's officials said Windsor didn't kick Commodore. They said the incident began after Windsor pulled over Commodore's vehicle.

According to police, Commodore got out of the car, then ran back to it, reached in to grab something and ran away, the sheriff's office said. The deputy yelled at him to stop. He didn't, the sheriff's office said, and turned toward the deputy as he reached toward his waist. Commodore was taken to a hospital and treated for a serious gunshot wound that went into his chest. Police eventually charged him with drug-related crimes.

Commodore's attorney said he was shot in the back; authorities said the wound was closer to his side, suggesting he was turning.

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