Prince George's Cunty Executive Lawrence J. Hogan yesterday attacked as unfair reccent newspaper stories reporting the existence of a "death squad" on the county police force in 1967.
Hogan, addressing the annual police and firemen's awards luncheon yesterday, said: "Every time a policeman knocks on a door, his wife becomes a potential widow. Every time a fireman answers that bell, his wife also becomes a potential widow."
"I would like to wake up tomorrow morning," Hogan continued, his voice quaking, "and read another story about the Prince George's County 'death squad.' Not like the unfair stories we've seen in the newspaper. Those stories may have been newsworthy 12 years ago, but they aren't newsworthy today.
"That's why the 'death squad' I want to read about tomorrow is the 'death squad' that all of our police officers and all our firemen serve on every day.
"That 'death squad' is the one on which they face death as they serve the people of this county every single day."
Hogan, who received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, has asked the Maryland State Police to investigate the "death squad," allegations.
Hogan told Washington Post reporters and editors last week that he believes police "probably entrapped," a county teen-ager into committing a robbery at a High's store in Adelphi on June 8, 1967.
William Hunter Mathews Jr., 18, was shot and kille by police who had staked out the store in anticipation of the attempted holdup.
Two men -- Mathews' holdup partner, Gregory Gibson, and one of the detectives on the stakeout -- recently told The Post that Joseph D. Vasco told Gibson to entice two "patsies" into committing the holdup at the High's store.
Vasco, the third-highest ranking officer in the Prince George's Police Department has denied planning the robbery.
Police Chief John W. Rhoads ordered his legal adviser, John B. Wynes, to investigate the "death squad" allegations and said that a 30-page report by Wynes cleard police of any wrongdoing during the holdups.
Four policemen and eight fireman were honored at the luncheon. Robert F. Derfler was named police officer of the year for saving four drowing victims in two separate incidents while on vacation last summer. Gregory A. Esposito, paul Low and Thomas C. Wheeler were honored as officers of the month.
Fire Lt. Steven T. Edwards was AWARDED THE FIRE DEPARTMENT'S Gold Star for risking his life to rescue other firemen during a Dec. 7 fire in Suitland which destroyed World War II film preserved by the National Archives. Fireman Gus L. Kassiris, Stanley L. Poole, Karl Granzow, Kenneth L. Cunningham, Ray A. Hinkle, James Ronald Buete and Allan A. Hamilton also were honored.