Riverdale Police Chief Leo W. Link has been suspended indefinitely without pay after allegedly threatening a neighbor with a cocked and loaded revolver while intoxicated, a town official confirmed yesterday.
Town Mayor Guy Tiberio suspended Link Friday and the Town Council confirmed the suspension in a special meeting Monday night, according to the town official, who is familiar with the investigation of Link. The official said council members were presented with a sworn statement from the neighbor, 37-year-old Ronald B. Howell, a recording of an obscenity-laden radio call apparently made by Link to Riverdale police after the incident, and a statement from Prince George's County police officers who responded to the call and said Link seemed intoxicated.
Link has not presented his position to the council. He could not be reached yesterday to comment on the alleged incident. A spokesman at Prince George's General Hospital said the police chief was there and was in stable condition, but they refused to say why he was being treated.
The 44-year-old police chief had been driving through the town drinking and having an argument with the neighbor before the incident occurred, according to Howell's sworn statement, and afterward made the radio call to town police asking for police backup, according to the town official.
In his sworn statement described by the official, Howell said he met Link about 12:30 a.m. Thursday as he was returning from his work as a mechanic for Washington Gas. He said Link wanted to talk to him about a family issue and offered to take him for a ride in his police cruiser so they could discuss the matter.
While riding around Riverdale in the police cruiser, Howell said in his statement, Link drank a large amount of whiskey and some peppermint schnapps. After about 90 minutes, he said, Link parked the car and Howell got out to urinate. Link stepped out of the car, Howell said in the statement, pulled out a snub-nosed revolver and pointed it at Howell's head.
"He drew a revolver, and pointed it at me," Howell said in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday. "He said: 'I ought to blow your head off,' or something like that." Howell said Link pulled the gun's hammer back, and Howell put his hands on his head and said: "Sir, if I am under arrest, please take me to jail."
According to the statement, Link then released the hammer of the gun, and placed it in Howell's inside jacket pocket. Howell said he asked Link to remove the gun from the pocket, but Link lay down on his back beside the police cruiser.
Howell said he then took off the jacket and let it slip to the ground. He said he then backed away slowly with his hands still on his head and, when he was some distance from the car, turned around and ran back to his apartment leaving the jacket and gun behind him.
That afternoon, he said, a member of the Town Council and town police Capt. Al Barcenas, the second in command of the force, came to his apartment to discuss the incident and return the jacket. The following day, he said, he went to the town police station and made a sworn statement to Barcenas that, he was told, would be handed to the mayor.
Howell's account of his statement was confirmed by the town official, who insisted that he not be named. Town Administrator Patrick J. Prangley acknowledged that an "investigation" was taking place but refused to comment further. Barcenas confirmed that he had been appointed acting police chief but refused to comment on Thursday's events.