Two years ago, in Waldorf, Md., one bullet destroyed two families

THE SCENE LASTED ONLY SECONDS, BUT NOW, AFTER SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE described it so many times in reports and depositions, at a police hearing and at a federal trial, it seems frozen in time, like a movie stopped at its most dramatic frame.

On the bitter cold night of December 18, 1985, James (Jimbo) Morris, 29, who had run a red light and then tried to out-drive a posse of police cars, was struggling to climb a chain-link fence at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, Md. Behind him, three state police cars had slammed to a stop, their sirens wailing, their blue lights whirling, their headlights cutting through the darkness. One trooper was still behind his steering wheel, yanking at a stubborn seat belt. Another was sprinting toward Morris, hoping to grab him before he scaled the fence. And a third, Michael W. Lindsey, 23, was standing outside his cruiser, his .357 magnum service revolver drawn and aimed at Morris' back.

That moment, which has been recounted and debated so often, flashed past in an instant, and then a situation that was merely bad turned tragic. Lindsey fired one shot. The bullet tore into Morris' torso, perforated a rib and a lung and ripped through his heart. A few minutes later, Jimbo Morris lay handcuffed on the frozen ground, gasping for his last few breaths while Michael Lindsey sat in another trooper's car, dazed and weeping.

That was the only time the two men ever met. Fate threw them together for just those few seconds and left one dead and the other in bad trouble. The midnight convergence of fleeing suspect and pursuing police turned the shooting into the kind of resonant event that ignites passions in a place like Waldorf.

Sitting 15 miles outside the Beltway in Charles County, Waldorf is a town in transition, a place where the woods and the cornfields and the old rural ways are rapidly being gobbled

up by the tract houses and fast-food joints of blue-collar suburbia. Around Waldorf, opinions about the incident tended toward extremes. Some people thought Jimbo Morris was a doped-up lowlife who got just what he deserved. Others thought Michael Lindsey was a trigger-happy cop who violated the code of the Wild West by shooting a fleeing man in the back.

In another era, the shooting and debate might have precipitated a blood feud. But this is America in the '80s, so the anger and agony were channeled into the tortuous maze of the legal system. Seeking to rescue their reputations and ease their grief, the Morris and Lindsey families turned to the courts. Donna Morris, struggling to raise two sons devastated by their father's death, sued Michael Lindsey and several other policemen for violating her husband's civil rights. And Lindsey, fired by the police and agonizing over his ailing infant son, sued the state to regain the only job he'd ever wanted.

It took nearly two years for the justice system to render its judgments. And even now, after the courts have spoken, the rage and bitterness that fueled the legal battles remain. Courts can deal only with legal issues; they cannot answer the kind of questions that keep people awake at night, questions of character and destiny and the cruel accidents of fate. Was there something inside Jimbo Morris and Michael Lindsey -- some flaws of character -- that combined to cause the tragedy? Was the incident simply the result of a misunderstanding caused by the seemingly trivial fact that Jimbo Morris' battered old Pinto barked out backfires that sounded like gunshots? P A R T 1 "Wide Open in the Fast Lane"

JIMMY RADAR HAS HIS BEARDED HEAD under the hood of an engine and his greasy hand around a wrench while he tells stories about his friend Jimbo Morris. But when he thinks of the one expression that can sum Jimbo up, he stands straight and utters it dramatically: "Wide open in the fast lane," he says with a big smile. "That's how you could describe him."

Rader works behind his little brick house in Waldorf, in a garage that's decorated with posters of scantily clad women clutching power tools and Polaroids of customers standing next to the cars that Rader helped soup up. The place is a hangout for guys who like to drive cars and fix cars and talk cars. Jimbo Morris used to drop by four or five times a week, usually singing whatever song was on the radio when he climbed out of his beat-up old Pinto. Jimbo was a stocky guy with glasses, a close-cropped beard, receding black hair and a perennially cockeyed grin. Rader had known him since high school. "Jimbo's always been Jimbo," he says. "He always liked cars and motorcycles. He could ride the hell out of a motorcycle, man."

Fact is, Jimbo Morris could ride the hell out of anything powered by gas. As soon as he got his license, he was hot-dogging on motorcycles and drag-racing his '55 Chevy at a local track called Budds Creek Dragway. Later on, when he had kids, he loved to ride three-wheelers with his sons in the woods around Waldorf. Whatever he rode, he rode hard, going wide open not only in the fast lane but in the woods, too.

One time, Jimbo was riding a three-wheeler around a gravel pit, wearing just shorts and sneakers, when he crashed through a brier patch and off a cliff and landed in a muddy creek with a thud that knocked him out. Unconscious, he lay in the muck all night long. His wife Donna called around, looking for him, but nobody knew where he was. By the time he came to, the next morning, the dirty water had marinated the brier scratches and his skin was dappled with infections. "I swear there wasn't a place on his body that wasn't scratched by a brier," says Rader. "You had to see it to believe it. It was unreal."

Jimbo and Donna were married right out of high school in 1974, and within three years, they had two kids -- James Jr., or Jay, now 13, and Robbie, now 10. Jimbo drove a truck for a while, then landed a job at the Capitol as a heating and air-conditioning repairman for the Senate. Donna stayed home with the kids for a few years, then got a job as a hairdresser. They worked hard and moved up, going from a trailer to a small starter house before building a nice three-bedroom place in Bryantown, just south of Waldorf. That was their dream house, and Jimbo put a lot of hard work into it. He was proud of his skill with his hands and always eager to help his friends with even the toughest of home-improvement projects. All they had to do was ask and Jimbo was there, grinning his grin and ready to work.

He was also, by all accounts, a doting father. Since he worked nights for most of his career, he spent a lot of time with his sons. And, being a big kid himself, he was great company. He coached their Little League teams, took them hunting, fishing and camping and taught them to ride three-wheelers. What more could an American boy want from his dad? His kids idolized him, and so did their friends. "You'd see him go by in that old Pinto he had, loaded with kids, going up to the ball field," Rader recalls. "I remember once he came around here with his littlest one on a three-wheeler and they were both covered with mud. He said, 'Robbie told me none of his friends were home and he was bored and he wanted to play and I said, well, come on, play with Dad.' And they went all through the cornfields and the hills, and, I mean, they came in here all covered. They were going through the mud doin' wheelies and all. They'd ride the hell out of them three-wheelers. Oh, he was somethin'. "

But the same qualities that made Jimbo "somethin' " -- his cockeyed grin and his love of fun and high speeds -- also tended to get him into trouble. Jimbo accumulated a fair amount of traffic tickets over the years, despite his predilection for attempting to outrun the cops who tried to pull him over. Once, in 1983, when he was late for his midnight shift at the Capitol, he was clocked going 100 in a 55-mph zone and charged with "fleeing and eluding" after he whipped around a cloverleaf then cut his lights and pulled off in a dark spot in the hope the cops would miss him. "I guess I've seen too many 'Smokey and the Bandit' movies," he later explained to his lawyer. Another time, he was nailed going 78 in a 55 zone and was cited for driving while intoxicated.

He did enjoy a drink. Once, at a retirement party in Washington, Jimbo stepped outside the bar with a glass in his hand and was picked up for drinking in public. But he didn't let that stop him. Within an hour, Jimbo returned to the party in a cab, recalls Ernie Saunders, a friend and co-worker. "He was just a carefree guy, that's all."

Saunders remembers camping with the Morris family in Pennsylvania. "He liked to pitch horseshoes, swim and drink," recalls Saunders, who is a teetotaler. "He always had a drink in his hand, mixed drink, but he was never drunk. I ain't never seen the man drunk."

Alcohol apparently was not the only drug Jimbo Morris enjoyed: His autopsy revealed traces of cocaine and PCP in his body, and police found a small amount of PCP in the Pinto after his death. Donna recalls seeing him stoned on drugs twice in the last six months of his life, but she doesn't believe he was a regular user. Some of his friends aren't so sure. He was, after all, a man who courted kicks, especially dangerous ones. "Jimmy was just the type of guy who would do anything to get high, I guess," says Saunders.

If Jimbo was getting deeper into drugs -- which is plausible but not proven -- it might explain his tumultuous last few months, months when it sometimes seemed that his life was falling apart. In September 1985, Jimbo's boss fired him from the Senate job he'd held for more than 10 years, citing several brief but unauthorized absences in August. Jimbo protested, but the decision stood. He quickly found another job but quit it after only a few weeks. "They promised him a lot of things and didn't come through," Donna explains. He was unemployed for about six weeks before landing a job as an air-conditioning maintenance man with Oliver Carr, the construction company. "He was really happy with that job," Donna recalls. "He was getting his act together."

Perhaps. But Jimbo was also having trouble with the Maryland State Police. On September 13, Trooper Larry Spriggs saw Jimbo run a red light in a T-bird and went after him with siren wailing and lights flashing. Jimbo didn't stop. Instead, he led Spriggs on a wild goose chase through a couple of miles of dark country roads until his T-bird got stuck in a roadside ditch. Spriggs pulled up behind him and was stepping out of his cruiser when Jimbo gunned his car out of the ditch, ramming the police car in the process. As Spriggs scrambled back into his car, Jimbo roared away, losing the trooper on the back roads.

Two days later, Jimbo got into a fistfight with the bouncer in a Waldorf bar called the Diamond Club. During the scuffle, a 9 mm pistol fell from Jimbo's jacket. When the fight was broken up, he left without his gun, which a bystander gave to Spriggs and Trooper Joe Appleby when they came to investigate the incident. The troopers asked around and concluded that the man who dropped the gun was the same man who had rammed Spriggs' police car.

The next night, Spriggs and Appleby went to Jimbo's house to question him. They knocked on the door at about midnight. That set the dogs howling and woke Donna and Jimbo. Sleepy-eyed, Donna answered the door. The cops asked for Jimbo and she went upstairs to get him. Several minutes passed, and the troopers, wary, took shotguns out of their cars. When Donna returned, she said Jimbo wasn't there. Dubious, Appleby walked into the backyard and found Jimbo standing bare chested and barefoot, holding a holstered pistol. "For a couple brief seconds," Appleby later testified, "the gun was pointed at me." Then Jimbo ran, only to be cornered on his deck.

He was arrested and hauled to the Waldorf Barrack. There, he was charged with a slew of traffic offenses stemming from September 13, the night he outran Spriggs; "possession of a dangerous and deadly weapon" stemming from the Diamond Club incident; and "possession of a handgun" for the confrontation that night.

When the Diamond Club gun charge came to court on November 6, a sizable crowd of state troopers was in attendance, hoping to see the judge throw the book at Jimbo Morris. Instead, the troopers watched as the case was thrown out because a typographical error -- one letter substituted for another -- had left Jimbo charged with the wrong crime. The cops were incensed: The man who had eluded them on the road had managed to elude them in court, too.

No sooner had Jimbo returned home that day than Trooper Spriggs appeared at the front door with yet another ticket related to the September 13 chase. Spriggs denied that his visit was a "rub-your-nose-in-it type of thing," but Jimbo didn't believe it. He figured that the cops were trying to stick it to him because they'd lost the gun case. But he didn't get hot. When Spriggs handed him the ticket, he just laughed.

The laughter irked Spriggs. He felt Jimbo was mocking the police with his silly cat-and-mouse games: "He took everything as a joke. He was someone who didn't care. He didn't care. He was having fun. That was my impression of him."

But Jimbo did care. Donna could tell that he was worried about the situation. His perennial grin wilted and he began to brood. But he wouldn't talk about it. "No, I don't want you to know anything about it," he said. "I don't want you to worry."

On November 8, two days after the court appearance, the Maryland State Police distributed a flier on Jimbo to its troopers: "It is recommended that anyone coming into contact with Morris use extreme caution in that he could possibly be armed and will resist and attempt to elude custody."

Michael Lindsey had that flier tucked into his windshield visor on the night he shot Jimbo Morris. P A R T 2

"I Was Always a Cop" MICHAEL LINDSEY, AN INTENSE MAN who combs his blond hair straight back from his high forehead, doesn't remember how old he was when he decided to become a policeman. "I've always wanted to be into it," he says. "When we first started playing cops and robbers, I was always a cop."

In a way, Michael Wayne Lindsey was born to be a cop the way Kennedys are born to be politicians and Rockefellers are born to be rich. His father was a policeman; so was his father's father. Growing up in the Charles County town of White Plains, his neighborhood was full of policemen, and most of his friends were the sons of cops. It was a place where discipline was instilled early and enforced with the backs of hands. "My dad was strict. If you did something wrong, you knew he was going to wallop you. That's why I never got involved with drugs or anything. I was more afraid of him than of the police." Michael chafed a bit at some of the discipline -- he wasn't fond of his father's habit of taking him to the barbershop for a flattop on the last day of school every year -- but he wasn't rebellious. He accepted his father's philosophy. "His lessons have come true -- every one he told me."

In high school, when most kids are agonizing about how to spend their lives, Michael Lindsey wondered only what type of policeman he should become. He thought of joining the U.S. Park Police -- his father's outfit -- but finally decided to become a Maryland state trooper. He wanted to work traffic, to wail down the highway chasing speeders. "I always liked to go fast," he says. Then he quickly adds, "But I never got in trouble for it."

After high school, Michael worked at Roy Rogers, just to kill a couple of years until he was 21, the minimum age for entrance into the State Police Academy. One day, working the drive-in window, he got to talking to a trooper who told him about the state police cadet program, which was open to 18-year-olds. Michael immediately signed up and started working at the weighing station in Upper Marlboro. He loved it. After working an eight-hour shift there, he'd ride with a trooper for another eight hours without pay, just for fun.

In January 1983 -- about a month before he turned 21 -- Michael entered the State Police Academy in Pikesville. It was a tough six months of training -- worse than boot camp, some Marine veterans told him -- but the rigors didn't bother him. Once again, he accepted the philosophy behind the discipline: "If you can't handle controlled stress, you won't make it on the streets. That's what they're trying to get across."

Michael's worst problem was homesickness. "I was a home boy. It was my first time away from home so I wanted to quit right away." He didn't quit -- he and a friend talked each other through the tough times -- but he still worried about his weekends. Guys who got in trouble had to stay over on weekends to work. "I was a home boy. I was scared to spend the weekend. You fought and cried for your weekends, that was your salvation. And if you messed up, you got a weekend {of work}. I never messed up."

In June 1983, Michael graduated -- seventh in his class of 54 -- and was assigned to the Waldorf Barrack. In October, he married Lori Watson, whom he had met at Roy Rogers. They settled near Waldorf, and Michael found that he had been right all along: He really did love working traffic. "With traffic, there's always something going on. If you wait for criminal work, you can wait your whole shift and be bored to death."

But Michael did not always confine his speeding to official police business. Late one night, Michael recalls, he and another off-duty trooper pulled a stunt reminiscent of Jimbo Morris. Cruising Rte. 301 in a Corvette, they saw a state police car, occupied, they thought, by a friend. They roared past it, well over the speed limit, flipping their buddy the bird. But the trooper in the car wasn't their buddy and he gave chase, siren wailing. They outraced him, pulled off the road in a dark spot and cut their lights. When he roared past, they turned around and went the other way, only to be nailed by another cop. Michael grins when he recalls how the 'Vette's tires reeked of burned rubber when they were caught. His boss was less amused: He docked Michael a day's pay.

Despite that incident, Michael earned a reputation as the kind of gung-ho cop who wasn't just in it for the paycheck. "He loved his job, he really did," recalls Larry Spriggs, who worked with Michael before quitting the force to return to college. "Being a state police officer wasn't the obsession of my life. With Lindsey, it was. That's what he was, that's what he wanted to be, that's what he was happy doing . . . Lindsey was very professional. He was an excellent police officer."

After Spriggs and Joe Appleby had their armed confrontation with Jimbo in his backyard, Michael was perplexed: "The guy had a gun pointed at Appleby and he {Appleby} didn't shoot him." Michael thought hesitation in the face of a gun was folly. He recalled an expression he had heard in the academy: I'd rather be tried by 12 than carried by six. So he asked Appleby about the incident: "I said, 'Joe, why didn't you shoot him?' And he said, 'I didn't think he'd shoot.' I said, 'Is that what you want us to put on your tombstone? 'Cause one day, you're gonna think he's not gonna shoot and he's gonna blow your head off.' " P A R T 3

"Are You Shooting at Him Or Is He Shooting at You?"

IT ALL BEGAN WHEN THE CAR STALLED.

Shortly after 11 o'clock on the night of December 18, 1985, Jimbo Morris sat in his white 1979 Pinto on Rte. 301 in Waldorf, waiting to make a left turn onto Mattawoman-Beantown Road. When the light turned green, he stepped on the gas, and the Pinto died.

That couldn't have surprised him. The car was a piece of junk, saved from the scrapheap by Jimmy Rader's mechanical magic. Running on bald tires and a wheezy engine, it could barely reach 50, and it backfired wildly whenever he let off the gas. That night, Jimbo had been working on it when Donna called from an office Christmas party. In the last conversation they ever had, he told her he was going to take the Pinto to Rader's to get some help. He never got there.

When the car stalled at the intersection, Jimbo turned off his headlights and cranked the engine. It sputtered and coughed. By the time he got it started, the light had turned red. That didn't stop Jimbo. He flashed his headlights back on and cruised through.

Michael White, a state trooper who had just completed his shift and was heading home in an unmarked police car, saw Jimbo run the light and took off after him. White turned on his red-and-blue grille lights and the red portable "fireball" on the dashboard, but Jimbo kept going, barreling down Mattawoman-Beantown Road and then turning into a residential development. White followed him through the narrow streets and then down a rutted dirt road that led back to Mattawoman-Beantown Road. He radioed to the Waldorf Barrack to say that he was involved in a "10-80" -- a chase -- and reported the license plate number of the Pinto. The Waldorf dispatcher ran a check on the plate and quickly reported back that it belonged to James Harland Morris of Bryantown.

Michael Lindsey and Joe Appleby were sitting in the Waldorf Barrack when White's call came over the radio. Immediately, they dashed to their cars and roared toward the chase. Both say that they missed the dispatcher's identification of the Pinto's driver and had no idea they were chasing Jimbo Morris.

They caught up with the chase a couple of miles down Mattawoman-Beantown Road. At that point, Jimbo's Pinto was in the lead, followed by White, then Michael, then Appleby, then Joe Fenlon, a Charles County deputy sheriff. As they drove down the dark, winding, wooded road, White and Michael later testified, they tried to pass the Pinto and Jimbo swerved toward them, running them off the road. But Fenlon doesn't recall seeing anything like that.

The chase had gone about three miles when Jimbo pulled off on a spur leading to Rte. 5, a divided four-lane highway. Michael and White were right behind him at the turn when they heard several loud pops. The sounds were, it now seems certain, backfires from the Pinto, but the troopers believed they were gunshots. "Are you shooting at him or is he shooting at you?" White asked Michael on the radio. Other troopers remember hearing somebody say, "Shots fired."

At that point, Jimbo made a hard left and headed onto the median strip. The police followed. As they bounced into the grassy gulley, Michael, who was behind and to the right of the Pinto, opened his door and fired four shots at Jimbo's tire, hoping to disable the Pinto before it could proceed across the highway. But all four shots missed.

Unscathed, the Pinto darted across the highway and scooted behind Thomas Stone High School. There, Jimbo Morris found himself cornered. In front of him was a vast stretch of chain-link fence. Behind him were three police cars. He slowed down, and as his car coasted into the fence, he opened the door and stepped out, stumbling as his feet hit the ground. He grabbed the top of the fence, jumped up and tried to wedge the toes of his work boots into the links. It didn't work. His shoes slipped out and his feet fell back to the ground. Then he tried again.

By that time, three police cars had slammed to a stop behind Jimbo -- White on the left, Appleby in the middle, Michael to the right. White, who could see that Jimbo was unarmed, jumped out and ran toward him, planning to wrestle him off the fence. Appleby, who recognized the fleeing man, yelled "It's Morris" before turning away to unhook his seat belt. Michael stepped from his car, pulled his gun, aimed it at Jimbo's back and shouted "Freeze!" At that point, Michael saw Jimbo turn toward his right, he later testified. "I squeezed the trigger," he said, "and fired one round."

White was only 10 feet from Jimbo when he saw the muzzle flash from Michael's gun, and he dove to the ground to avoid being shot. When he got up, Jimbo had his hands on the top of the fence and was still struggling to get over. White figured the shot had missed. He grabbed Jimbo and wrestled him off the fence. Jimbo, shot through the right lung and the right ventricle of his heart, was rapidly bleeding to death. He looked at White and uttered his last words: "Oh, come on, fellas."

White pulled him to the ground and, with help from other troopers, handcuffed him. Then they noticed that Jimbo was bleeding. Appleby pulled up his shirt and saw the bullet hole on the right side of his lower back, near the backbone. "Hey, are you okay?" he asked. There was no response.

Somebody summoned an ambulance, and while they waited for it, Trooper Silas Williamson escorted Michael into his cruiser and drove him back to the barrack. Michael was crying. The sounds he had heard during the chase could have been backfires, he told Williamson. But, he kept repeating, they had told him on the radio that the guy was shooting. "That's Where They Killed My Dad at"

WHEN DONNA MORRIS CAME HOME from her office Christmas party, at about 2 on the morning of December 19, she met two state troopers coming out her front door. The cops told Donna that her sons had let them in, but the boys were asleep upstairs. The police wanted to check her husband's gun case to see if any weapons were missing. None were. They said that there had been an accident, and they asked if she had a friend they could call to stay with her. Donna suggested Nancy Morawski, who worked with her and who lived nearby. While one cop called Nancy, another took Donna aside and told her that Jimbo was dead, that he'd been shot by the police. Nancy, who had just returned from the office party, thought the call was a joke until she heard Donna crying in the background.

All night long, Donna and Nancy sat up, weeping and trying to figure out how to tell the kids. They decided to wait until the boys awoke in the morning, so Donna tiptoed into their rooms to shut off the alarm clocks.

Jay, who was 11, cried when he heard the news. But Robbie, who was 8, remained remarkably calm. He just kept asking when he could go to the hospital to see his dad. For days, even after the funeral, he couldn't seem to comprehend that his father was dead.

At the wake, Jay stared at his father's corpse for a long time, then looked up at his mother and fell apart. Donna's father had to take him outside. On the way home that night, Robbie rode with Jimmy Rader and his wife. When they passed Thomas Stone High School, Robbie said, "That's where they killed my dad at." What do you say to that? Rader wondered. He improvised: "Everything's gonna be all right, buddy. Don't worry. Everything's gonna be okay."

That was a little white lie, of course. Everything wasn't okay. Christmas, for example, was terrible. Friends and family came by to trim a tree and cook festive food, but they failed to make the holiday merry. The kids' eyes, which usually glowed at Christmas, just smoldered.

Jay, who idolized his father, was devastated by his death. Usually outgoing and energetic, he became antisocial and withdrawn, and started spending a lot of time alone in his room. He seemed to seethe with anger, but it was hard to tell what he was thinking because he wouldn't talk. In school, too, he was silent and uninterested, and his grades plummeted. He'd always been a good student, but he failed three courses and had to repeat the seventh grade.

Robbie seemed to take it better, at least outwardly. Unlike Jay, he talked about Jimbo all the time. He was always telling stories about his father and asking questions about his father. My daddy said this and my daddy did that and my daddy gave me this, and didn't Daddy say that? Donna found his constant stream of questions as tough to handle as Jay's sullen silences. "I don't know," she had to answer. "It was you two together -- I have no idea."

Donna had her own problems adjusting. She could not bear to drive past Thomas Stone High School, and for months she could not bring herself to clean out Jimbo's closet. Finally, one morning, even before getting out of her pajamas, she started the job. It was a painful task. Every article of clothing summoned memories. He had worn some of them so many times that they still held his shape. They were, in a way, sculptures of him, familiar pieces of cloth surrounding a Jimbo-shaped void. While she packed them up, the phone rang. When she answered it, somebody asked for Jimbo. She dropped the receiver and screamed.

Jimbo's death left her with financial problems. The house was heavily mortgaged, and Donna worried about meeting the payments. She left her job as a hairdresser at the Gallery in Waldorf to take a more lucrative position as manager of the Gallery in La Plata. But with the pay raise came longer hours and more responsibility. Late at night, after spending a tough day at work then hustling home to cook dinner and put the boys to bed, she'd fall exhausted into bed. But sleep did not come easily. Her mind churned with questions about Jimbo's death. The police story didn't make sense to her. A high-speed chase in the Pinto? The car could barely go 50. And couldn't trained policemen tell the difference between a backfire and a gunshot? She kept remembering the Monday before the shooting. All day, Jimbo had been quiet and withdrawn. In bed that night, she asked him what was wrong. "I don't want to bother you," he replied. "I don't want you to be worried." Pondering that cryptic remark, she wondered if perhaps Jimbo knew something about the state police that he wasn't supposed to know, if perhaps the whole incident was a setup.

Night after night, she mulled those questions and wondered if she should do what a lot of her friends were suggesting: sue the state police. Then, in late February, a Charles County grand jury heard the case and voted not to indict any troopers. Donna was irate. It was a cover-up, she thought, a whitewash.

In April, she responded with a federal lawsuit against several Maryland state policemen, including Michael Lindsey. The suit charged that Jimbo had been shot and killed in violation of his constitutional rights, and demanded $1 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages. P A R T 5

"I Wake Up in a Cold Sweat"

AFTER THE SHOOTING, MICHAEL LINDsey called his father from the Waldorf Barrack. "I just shot and killed somebody," he remembers saying. "I need you up here. I don't know what I'm doing."

"Just keep your mouth shut till I get there," his father replied.

The police took away Michael's gun that night and reassigned him to administrative duties -- in other words, paperwork -- pending an investigation. But that didn't worry him; it was standard procedure after a shooting. Besides, everybody was telling him not to worry. The guys in the barrack came by to pat him on the back and a couple of high-ranking cops called to say that the department would back him up. In February, he was promoted to trooper first class, and then the grand jury decided not to indict him. He figured he'd be back on the highway soon.

Then Donna Morris filed her suit.

After that, Michael recalls, the atmosphere changed radically. One day in the spring, while attending an in-service training class at the academy, he was ordered to report to the legal affairs office. There, a lawyer informed him that the state, which was defending the other troopers in the lawsuit, would not represent him. Michael would have to hire his own attorney. Frightened and confused, Michael left the room in a daze. He doesn't remember returning to the classroom to pick up his books or wandering by mistake into the pool area, where troopers later found him staring blankly into the water.

A friend drove him back to the Waldorf Barrack, where Lt. Jesse Graybill, Michael's commanding officer, confiscated his gun and badge, then asked if he had any weapons at home. "Sure," Michael said, "I've got a 9 millimeter, a .45 and a shotgun." Graybill asked if he could hold them for a few days. "They thought I was gonna waste myself," Michael says.

Later, a state police psychologist called Michael to suggest that they talk, and Michael and Lori agreed to meet with him. At first, Michael couldn't tell the doctor what was bothering him. He knew what he wanted to say, but he just couldn't express it. He cried for nearly a half hour before he finally got it out. His father was a cop, so was his grandfather, he told the doctor. "I'm following in their footsteps, and I screwed up. I disappointed those two, even though my grandfather is dead. I disappointed them."

Talking to the doctor helped, so Michael continued to see him. But he remained angry and frightened about the prospect of facing Donna Morris' lawsuit. Embittered that the police refused to defend him, he feared he would lose everything he owned and end up living on a heating grate in Washington, a target for punks with rocks. Frequently, he would sit staring into space for long periods, brooding. Like Jimbo Morris, he could not tell his wife what he was thinking. "I was talking till I was blue in the face," Lori recalls, "but he didn't say anything."

Finally, in May 1986, citing the strain of stress, he took a sick leave.

During the "stress leave," which lasted half a year, Bill Schneider, owner of a Waldorf auto body shop and one of Michael's closest friends, tried to distract him from his troubles. He took Michael on fishing trips off Ocean City and put him to work in the shop. Sometimes, Michael sat talking to Schneider long after the other workers had gone home, weeping as he pondered his future.

Michael's mood was not improved in July, when Graybill charged him with violating several departmental firearms regulations in connection with the Jimbo Morris shooting. If found guilty on those charges, the man who never wanted to be anything but a cop could lose his job. That prospect, recalls Schneider, left Michael near "the breaking point."

In November 1986, a board of state policemen heard three days of testimony about the shooting of Jimbo Morris. Trooper White told the board that he had felt he was in no danger as he ran to grab Jimbo off the fence. But Michael testified that he feared for White's life and his own. He described what was going through his mind before he fired the fatal shot: "He {Jimbo} was running from something; he had already tried to run me off the road twice; somebody told me -- a professional police officer who was behind me -- told me that I was being shot at . . . I didn't see his hands. I didn't know what he was doing. I figured he was going after a weapon . . ."

On the day the board released its findings, Schneider threw a party for Michael. There was a deejay, a dance floor, plenty of food and drink and a crowd of friends, most of them cops. All that was missing was something to celebrate: The board found that Michael Lindsey "fired a shot from his service revolver at an unarmed suspect with his hands raised." It recommended that Michael "be dismissed from the agency."

On December 12, George Brosan, then superintendent of the state police, concurred with the board's findings and fired Michael.

Aided by the Maryland Troopers Association, which paid his legal fees, Michael appealed that decision. Charles County Judge Richard Clark stayed the execution of Michael's dismissal until the appeal could be heard. Still barred from carrying his badge and gun, Michael was assigned to shuffle papers.

On March 2, Michael got the first good news he'd heard in months: Lori gave birth to their first child, John Michael Lindsey. But the joy was short-lived. Twelve hours later, John Michael was rushed to Children's Hospital. For a week, he was subjected to various tests, including two spinal taps, but the doctors couldn't figure out what was ailing him. Was it a heart problem? A liver problem? Meningitis? A virus?

In May, with the baby still sick and the physicians still baffled, a doctor asked Lori if she had ever had a blood transfusion. Yes, she said, she had received several transfusions during surgery on her right leg. Immediately she was given a blood test to determine if she had contracted AIDS from a transfusion and then passed it to her son in the womb.

Stunned and scared, Lori returned home to tell Michael about the AIDS test, but he was in no condition to hear bad news. His court cases were approaching and he was in a foul mood. For a week, the two of them suffered silently, agonizing, afraid to articulate their fears, exploding over petty problems. They were, Michael recalls, "like a snake and a mongoose," and he considered moving out. But then Lori's blood test came back negative and Michael's court cases were postponed and they calmed down enough to communicate.

Over and over, in the spring and summer of 1987, Michael's court cases were scheduled and postponed and rescheduled. Each time, the pressure escalated. On September 4, Michael appeared in Charles County Court for a hearing on the appeal of his dismissal. Waiting, he paced the marble floors, feeding piece after piece of chewing gum to jaws that crushed them in a quick nervous rhythm. When the case was called, Judge Clark announced that he had not yet read the hearing transcripts, and he postponed the case again. Irate, Michael stomped out of the courtroom. "It's been up here what? -- six months? -- and he hasn't looked at it yet," he said in disgust.

Frustrated and angry, Michael denounced the judge, the state police brass and even Jimbo Morris -- a "dirtball," he called the man he had shot 21 months earlier. "I don't have nightmares over this guy," he said. "I can look at pictures of him and ptttt" -- he made a contemptuous spitting sound -- "What I wake up in a cold sweat about is thinking, 'They're gonna fire me, I'm gonna lose my house and my car.' I'm more worried about my family, supporting them, and having to start over in another career. I don't know what else I want to do. People say, 'There's a lot of things you can do,' but I say, 'There's nothing out there I want to do.' This is what I want to do. That's why I'm fighting so hard." P A R T 6

"When Is the Storm Going to Be Over?"

WHEN DONNA MORRIS WATCHED Michael Lindsey step to the witness stand in the federal courthouse in Baltimore on September 29, she felt an intense desire to leap from her chair and strangle him. She stifled it and sat calmly, her face reflecting none of her rage.

For a year and a half, Donna had

continued on page 58 continued from page 31 waited with trepidation for the day that her lawsuit against Troopers Lindsey, White and Appleby would come to trial. She was ambivalent about the case. Though she wanted to prove to the world -- and especially to her children -- that Jimbo had been illegally shot and killed, she did not want to face the man who shot her husband. For two long days, though, she had remained composed while various police officers described how her husband had been chased and shot. Only once did she break down in tears. That was during the coroner's testimony, when Jimbo's green work jacket, still caked with blood, and detailed photographs of his wounds were entered into evidence. And now, just a few hours later, the man who killed her husband stepped to the witness stand and she struggled to contain her anger.

Wearing a tweed jacket over a white crew-neck sweater, Michael told his story, his nervousness betrayed by quick staccato speech. He spoke of running from the barrack, with "adrenaline pumping," to help White chase Jimbo Morris. He tried to pass Jimbo to set up a "rolling roadblock," he testified, but the Pinto swerved toward him, driving him onto the shoulder of the road. After Jimbo turned onto Rte. 5, Michael heard "three loud pops I thought were gunshots" and then, over the radio, the message "He's shooting at you." Then Jimbo swerved onto the median strip. Michael followed, opening the door and firing four shots "in hopes of disabling the right rear tire."

Coolly, dispassionately, Michael described the scene behind the high school. He drew his gun while stepping from the cruiser. He saw Jimbo struggling to climb the fence and then "I drew a bead on the center mass." He yelled "Freeze!" but Jimbo turned to the right. "I took it that he was a threat to myself and everybody there, and I fired one shot."

After three days of testimony, the jurors deliberated for two hours and then issued their verdict: Troopers White and Appleby were innocent of any wrongdoing, but Michael Lindsey had "intentionally, willfully and wantonly used excessive force" on Jimbo Morris.

That night, when Donna Morris returned home from court with the good news, her sons cheered and slapped her on the back: "You did it, Mom, you did it!"

But the case wasn't over yet. The next day, the jurors again deliberated, this time to determine the amount of damages, and announced their decision: Michael Lindsey owed Donna Morris and her children $432,500 in compensatory damages and $13,000 in punitive damages -- a total of $445,500.

"I just feel numb," Donna said, leaving the courthouse. But as she stepped across the brick plaza, she smiled and gazed up at the sunny autumn sky. "I know Jimbo's up there, going, 'Awright!" she said with a laugh.

In a hotel bar across the street, she joined her attorney, Kevin McNeil, for a celebratory beer. "I'm very satisfied," she said. Her eyes, so nervous for the past three days, brightened. It wasn't the prospect of riches that thrilled her. She didn't expect to see much, if any, of the $445,500. She knew that Michael Lindsey was not a rich man, that she could not legally seize his house or any other assets owned jointly with his wife, and that the State of Maryland was not legally responsible to pay the award. Her only option was to garnishee some portion of the wages of this man who, she realized, was in imminent danger of being fired. It wasn't the money that she was celebrating, it was the decision -- the public pronouncement that Jimbo had been wronged. "It restores my faith in justice," she said.

She hoped the verdict would cause the FBI to press criminal charges against Michael Lindsey. Though she was aware of his family troubles, she found it impossible to summon any sympathy for him. "I just can't," she said. "I mean, he murdered my husband. He has no remorse. None. I just can't feel sorry for the guy. I can't."

Michael Lindsey was not present in the courtroom when the jury announced the amount of the award. The judge had excused Michael so he could accompany his son to the hospital, where the boy was scheduled to have a brain scan.

The scan revealed the presence of fluid on John Michael's brain. Five days later, the 7-month-old baby underwent surgery to implant a shunt in his skull to drain the fluid off. The operation proved successful. The next morning, John Michael awoke with a grin on his face. Within days, he was visibly more alert, energetic and happy.

His father exhibited none of those qualities two days later, when he appeared again in the Charles County courthouse to hear Judge Clark rule on the appeal of his dismissal. Michael stood on the elegant marble floor, gazing out the window. He was so certain that he would lose the appeal -- and his job with it -- that he had already begun growing a mustache, an extravagance forbidden by state police rules. He stood alone. This time, unlike other court appearances, there was no crowd of cops to show support. "I didn't tell anybody about it," he said in a low monotone. "It's just a waste of time. We know what's going to happen."

A man passing by stopped when he saw Michael. "Lindsey! What's up with the shooting?"

"I'm getting fired."

The man recoiled visibly at the bluntness of the reply.

"Nobody believes me," Michael explained. "They all think I'm a liar. I've suffered through two years of this and nobody believes me."

Michael's mother, father and sister trudged up the marble stairs. They asked about the baby and talked about troubles coming in bunches. "When it rains, it pours," Michael's sister said.

"It's been raining an awful lot lately," said Michael's mother.

"When," Michael asked softly, "is the storm going to be over?"

They moved into the courtroom. Clark announced that he had reached a decision in the case. Michael sat staring down at the table in front of him. "The hearing board was made up of members of the Maryland State Police; it was not made up of judges," Clark said. "I think, quite frankly, they did a very excellent job . . ." Michael's head hung lower. "There is certainly sufficient evidence that the board could find the facts they found and arrive at the conclusion they arrived at in this matter . . . Given those findings, I affirm the actions of the trial board and the superintendent of police . . ."

As Michael hustled out of the courtroom, his mother threw her arm around his shoulder, but he stepped quickly past her. On his way out the door, he saw Donna Morris' lawyers, and he cursed them until his father led him away, saying, "Don't go down to their level."

The tragedy had come full circle: The shot that ended Jimbo Morris' life 22 months earlier had now ended Michael Lindsey's life as a policeman. Michael was inconsolable. He wasn't worried that his family would starve -- Lori works for the federal government -- he was mourning the death of his dream. Once, he had been that rare man whose job is a calling. Now, he was just a guy who worked part time bagging groceries in a supermarket.

Standing with his family on the courthouse steps, Michael stared out across the parking lot. "Maybe," he said, "this is the best thing that ever happened to me." Somehow, he didn't sound convinced. ::