Leroy Perry, a 48-year-old Maryland state employe, was driving down an Anne Arundel County road in the predawn hours when he was stopped by a county policeman for an alleged traffic violation. Moments later, Perry lay dead, shot twice in the chest.
The police officer, David Hodge, said in his report that he fired in self-defense when Perry lunged at him with a screwdriver early Monday. A second police officer drove up in time to witness the shooting, and Anne Arundel County police say he generally corroborates Hodge's account. Police refused yesterday to release details of his report.
One of Perry's daughters maintains that her father was a mild-mannered man who "wouldn't bother a soul" and was getting the screwdriver only to pry open his trunk and get his registration card. The daughter, Robin Perry, 17, interviewed at the family home just inside the Annapolis city line, said her father kept his car registration in the trunk of his mid-60s Chevrolet and that he carried a screwdriver to open the trunk lid, which was jammed.
Anne Arundel County police and the county prosecutor's office yesterday were investigating the incident.
Twice before, Hodge, 27, has been tried and ultimately acquitted on charges of assaulting men while performing his police duties. The first incident involved a 1977 shooting after a high-speed chase that ended with the suspect's car surrounded by police, according to authorities. Hodge was indicted, tried in Circuit Court and found innocent. Then in 1979, Hodge was charged with assault after allegedly beating an 18-year-old suspect with a flashlight. He was convicted in county District Court, but when he appealed and the case was retried in the higher Circuit Court, a jury found Hodge innocent, authorities said.
Hodge, a six-year veteran of the police force, has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the current investigation continues, a police spokesman said.
According to Officer Jack Rayhart, Hodge stopped Perry because he suspected him of drunk driving. Rayhart gave this account of the incidents that led up to Monday's shooting:
Hodge reported that shortly after 3 a.m. a car passed his police car on Ritchie Highway, accelerated, veered in front of a taxi, almost went out of control and then slammed on its brakes on the side of the road. Hodge said that when the car stopped, its driver got out, produced his license and, when Hodge asked for the registration, went to the passenger side of the car, got in and opened the glove compartment.
Hodge said in his report he saw a can of beer on the car's transmission hump and asked the driver how much he'd had to drink and where he'd been, but got no answers.
Hodge reported that at that point "I was standing in front of the door and shining my light into the glove box, and noticed a car coming up at us. . . . For a split second I averted my eyes from the subject to the vehicle approaching me," Hodge's report continued.
"I was still standing in the doorway of the vehicle when the subject lunged out of the car door with an object in his right hand. He made a downward stabbing motion toward my face, and I could see what I perceived to be a ice pick or a screwdriver only inches from my face."
Hodge said in his report that he took two steps back, drew his service revolver and "when I realized the subject was not going to stop and feared for my life, I fired my service revolver two times."
Police said a screwdriver was found near the spot where Perry fell.
Perry's daughter, Robin, said the police account of the incident seemed unbelievable to the family. She said her father drinks socially, but does not drink very much, and was on his way home from work when the incident occurred. She also said the family found it strange that Perry's wife, Shirley, was not notified about the shooting until 10 a.m. Tuesday when police officers came to her office in Glen Burnie.
Perry had worked since the beginning of the year in the boiler room at the Baltimore headquarters of the state Department of Human Resources, a spokesman said. Before that he had worked for the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works.