Former Prince George's County police officer Peter F. Morgan, fired by Chief John Rhodes last June for fatally shooting an unarmed shoplifting suspects, said yesterday that he expects to be back on the police force early next year.
"I thought I had a pretty good chance to win an appeal in court with (Winfield) Kelly as county executive," Morgan said, "Now that Mr. Hogan's been elected I feel very confident that I'll be back on the force one way or another."
County Executive elect Lawrence J. Hogan attacked the firing of Morgan during the campaign calling it "politically motivated," and said that he believed Kelly and Rhoads had made Morgan, "a scapegoat."
"I think we should give the police, not burglars, the benefit of the doubt in these situations," he said. "Some punishment was appropriate, but not firing."
The Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Hogan for county executive and worked actively for his election. FOP sources said yesterday that Hogan has told them privately that he wants Morgan back on the force.
"I won't comment on that," Hogan said, "I don't trade in rumors or comment on them. FOP president Laney Hester also refused comment.
Rhoads fired Morgan on June 21 after a three-man police trial board found him guilty on a 2-to-1 vote of improper use of deadly force.
Morgan was brought before the trial board made an solely of police officers, after he fatally shot William Ray, a 32-year-old Northeast Washington man last Dec. 24 as Ray attempted to escape from the Seat Pleasant police station. Ray had been arrested several hours earlier for allegedly attempting to steal two hams from a supermarket.
Morgan was placing him a holding cell when Ray pushed him and bolted through a nearby door out of the station. Morgan chased him across a street and down an alley yelling "Halt or I'll shoot," three times.
He then fired his service revolver once, striking Ray in the back of the head. Ray died two days later.
Morgan now is working at a local car dealership selling auto parts. Earlier this week he filed an appeal of his dismissal in county Circuit Court.
During the county executive campaign Morgan worked for Hogan and, according to a friend of Morgan, the two have discussed the situation.
"I think Mr. Hogan is more sympathetic to police problems than Kelly was," Morgan said. "I think the reason the police backed him is because they felt he would back them in critical situations. This is an example of a critical situation."
Morgan became a symbol of dissatisfaction for police officers during their eight-day slowdown in July. The slowdown came as a result of a contract dispute with the county and police frustration over the fatal shooting of two policemen.
Morgan was not indicted following the shooting and many black groups in the county, including the NAACP expressed outrage. Ray was black. Morgan is white.
"I think the new county executive believes in backing up his men," Morgan said. "We're counting on that."
Hogan is not expected to take immediate action, sources said, but will instead wait and see the outcome of Morgan's appeal - expected to be heard in January or February, before taking any action himself.