To Prince George's County prosecutors, the six-hour siege last May in which two officers were shot and wounded during a raid on a suspected drug dealer's home in Chillum ended as an example of "what the police did correctly."
Police showed "great restraint" by wounding Sigismund Nathaniel Sangster, said Assistant State's Attorney David Simpson, "instead of gunning him down in cold blood, even though two of their own had been shot."
But to Eric Slatkin, Sangster's attorney, the state's case against the 27-year-old Jamaican-born Rastafarian is an "evil caricature of society, hatred and prejudice." Sangster, Slatkin said, is a schizophrenic who had been "hassled" by police because of his religion and who had been beaten in his home six months before the incident by persons who said they were county police officers.
Sangster, whose trial began yesterday, is charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder in connection with the shootings of Officer Robert Sinton and Cpl. John Magruder, who were among officers executing a search warrant last May 2 at Sangster's apartment at 5725 Chillum Heights Dr.
Shotgun pellets struck Magruder in both hands, Simpson said yesterday in his opening statement to the jury, and Sinton was shot in the lower abdomen.
Detective John A. Bartlett, a county police narcotics investigator, testified yesterday that he got a search warrant for Sangster's apartment after neighbors complained to police about apparent sales of marijuana there and after an undercover officer purchased $5 worth of marijuana through a small opening in the door.
As is the usual department practice, Bartlett testified, specially trained police sharpshooters accompanied narcotics officers on the early morning raid because police had information that a Jamaican lived there.
Police found Sangster locked inside his bedroom, Bartlett said, and could not break through the double door with a battering ram. Then, he said, "shots rang out from inside the door." Bartlett said he fell on top of Sinton and Magruder fell on top of Bartlett.
Bartlett said police returned fire through the closed door and he moved Sinton away from the line of fire. Almost six hours later, he said, the standoff ended when a police negotiator talked Sangster into surrendering.
Sangster was critically wounded during the exchange of gunfire, with injuries to the face, right eye, chest and abdomen. Slatkin, his attorney, said Sangster lost his right eye when police shot him with a rubber bullet.
Bartlett said 161 grams of marijuana, a .357 magnum handgun and a sawed-off shotgun were found in the apartment.