Damon Bowie, the accused gunman in last October's robbery and deadly shootings at Stoney's restaurant in Clinton, testified yesterday that he signed formal statements implicating himself in the crimes only after he had been beaten and threatened by Prince George's County police.
But Circuit Court Judge Vincent J. Femia, who was asked yesterday to bar the prosecution from using the statements as evidence against Bowie, said after a five-hour hearing that Bowie's assertions were less credible than the testimony of several police officers, who denied coercing him.
Femia found that Bowie acted "freely and voluntarily" when he told detectives that he took part in the Oct. 11 robbery and wounded two people, including an off-duty police officer.
Bowie also has been charged with the execution-style slayings of two other people in the restaurant, although in his statements he denied responsibility for the killings.
Yesterday's hearing was conducted outside the presence of the jury, which will begin hearing from witnesses today. Bowie, 20, is the second of five defendants to go on trial in the case. The State's Attorney's Office has announced it will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
Police Cpl. Richard Webster, a member of a tactical team that burst into Bowie's Suitland apartment and arrested him Nov. 24, testified that Bowie, who was lying on a mattress on the floor, failed to move his hands into plain sight when told to do so, then resisted attempts to handcuff him.
As a result, Webster said, he kicked and punched Bowie several times.
After Bowie had been handcuffed and moved off the mattress, Webster said, officers found a loaded handgun on the floor within arm's reach.
Assistant State's Attorney Deborah Johnston, who called Webster to the witness stand, also summoned six other officers, most of them homicide investigators, who dealt with Bowie at the department's Criminal Investigation Division headquarters in the hours after his 4:30 a.m. arrest.
Although Bowie clearly had been injured in his encounter with Webster, the officers testified, he kept a calm demeanor throughout the day while being questioned about the robbery and never asked for medical treatment.
Bowie, however, testified that he was "semi-conscious" after being kicked and punched by Webster. A short time later, as he was being driven away from his apartment in the front passenger seat of a police car, he said, an unidentified officer in the back seat reached forward and struck him.
He said he was beaten again in an interview room, although he offered few details and did not identify the officers who allegedly struck him.
He said that the statements he signed were fabricated by the detectives.
Judge Femia, in assessing Bowie's credibility, wondered aloud why police would fabricate statements in which Bowie admitted shooting two people -- restaurant owner Allan Stone and police Detective Robert McDaniel -- but denied killing the other two, chef Arnold Batson and manager Kevin Shelley.
Bowie's trial is expected to last about three days.
The first defendant to be tried in the case, James W. Edmonds, 26, was convicted of second-degree murder and other crimes and sentenced last month to 130 years in prison.