A Prince George's County administrative police trial board this week recommended to Chief John W. Rhoads that Officer Lester J. Bethel be fined $100 for using an unauthorised shotgun on the morning of Jan. 21 when he shot and killed Abraham Dickens IV, an unarmed burglary suspect.
Rhoads now has up to 30 days to decide whether to accept the board's recommendation, impose a stiffer penalty, a lighter penalty or no penalty at all. The chief usually follows trial board recommendations.
Bethel is currently on administraive leave and will not return to active duty until Rhoads takes action. He can appeal the chief's decision in court.
On June 2, the trial board acquitted Berthel of charges of unsatisfactory performance in using deadly force and not guilty of violating the general order on the use of deadly force, which was in effect at the time of the shooting.
The board did find him guilty on the charge of using an unauthorized shotgun. Berthel testified that he had been using his roommate's shotgun on the morning of the incident. His roommate, assigned to the department's special operations division, was out of town. Regular beat officers are not issued shotguns unless they request them.
The shooting took place at 5:40 a.m. when Bethel confronted Dickens, 18, as he was climbing through a bathroom window of the Palmer Restaurant, 7222 George Palmer Highway, Seat Pleasant.
Bethel testified that when he ordered Dickens to halt, "he made a sudden move to his right. I thought, 'he's got a gun and he's going to kill me.' I fired twice." The shooting, the second in four weeks in which a white officer from the Seat Pleasant station shot a black, unarmed suspect, set off cries of racism within the largely black Seat Pleasant community. Shortly there-after, Rhoads issued more stringent rules on officers' use of firearms.