The Prince George's County Police Department disclosed yesterday it has charged county patrolman Peter F. Morgan with violating police regulations for fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed shoplifting suspect in Seat Pleasant on Christmas Eve.
Morgan, a 22-year-old private, faces a disciplinary hearing before the police department's administrative hearing board next month. Maj. Robert M. Zidek, chief of the inspectional services division, did not recommend in a report what action the hearing board should take action against Morgan. Dismissal penalty that the board can impose.
In his report on Morgan's fatal shooting of 32-year-old William Ray, Maj. Zidek charged the young officer with violating two sections of the police department's general code on the use of deadly force.
According to Maj. Zidek's report, the key paragraph in those sections of the general code reads as follows:
"Firearms may be discharged only when the escapee has endenagered the lives of others during the process of the escape, or if the officer believes the escapee is a danger to the community and will cause grievous bodily hard to others it he is not recaptured."
According to police accounts, Ray had been searched twice and was unarmed when he escaped from the Seat Pleasant district police station on the afternoon of Dec. 24 and was chased down Addision Street by Morgan. Ray was shot in the head by Morgan during that chase, after ignoring one order to halt, police said.
Morgan's attorney, Samuel Serio, said last night that the police department regulations on the use of firearms are "full of contradictions." He argued that another section of the code states that it is "lawful" to use deadly force "to prevent the escape of a felon attempting to escape lawful confinement."
Morgan and his attorney were in UPper Marlboro yesterday as a county grand jury began hearing evidence in the shooting compiled by the county State's Attorney's Office, which is seeking a manslaughter indictment against Morgan.
The grand jury heard testimony from three witnesses, according to Serio, but extended the hearing to next Wednesday before bringing in Morgan, who is willing to testify in his own defense.
A spokesman for State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall said the prosecutor office wants to talk to Arthur Jackson, leader of the county NAACP's youth division, before completing the presentment to the grand jury. Jackson said at a press conference this week he had interviewed a woman who claimed to have witnessed the shooting and believed Ray was handcuffed at the time of incident.
Serio said he welcomed the testimony of Jackson, who had also stated publicly that the Ray shooting was "a clear case of murder." Said Serio: "I'd like him to prove that charge to the grand jury. And if he can't, we'll be back the next morning with one big slander suit."
The grand jury probe of the Ray shooting is expected to be completed at next week's hearing, according to the State's Attorney Office.
The administrative hearing within the police department is scheduled to begin Feb. 27, according to a police spokesman. The hearing board is composed of three members of the department, whose names are chosen at random, with the only stipulation being that one member of the board be Morgan's peer. In other words, at least one private would be on the hearing board.
Serio will represent Morgan at the disciplinary hearing. The police department will be represented by a member of the County Attorney's Office, which is separate from the county prosecutor's office.