Protests Don't Sway Prosecutor

Two months of weekly demonstrations have failed to persuade the Prince George's County prosecutor to reopen the investigation of the fatal 1993 police shooting of a 24-year-old motorist who was arrested after failing a series of sobriety tests.

Archie Elliott III, who was black, was shot 14 times by two police officers--one white and one black--on June 18, 1993, while he sat handcuffed in the front seat of a patrol car.

The demonstrations, punctuated by arrests for blocking the courthouse in Upper Marlboro, were joined by a number of prominent civil rights figures, including Martin Luther King III, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; the Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York activist; and former D.C. delegate Walter E. Fauntroy. A talk show host, Joe Madison of WOL-AM radio, has been on a no-solid-foods hunger strike since Feb. 15 in aid of the protests.

But county State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson (D) said in an interview last week that he still has no grounds to reopen the investigation.

Johnson, who is black, said he is sympathetic to the feelings of Elliott's mother, Dorothy Elliott, one of those pushing to reopen the case. But he expressed anger over "people who don't live in Prince George's County to demand that I reopen the case. Walter Fauntroy and Joe Madison never said anything about this six years ago. Now they are asking me to defy the findings of a federal court, the Justice Department and a grand jury."

The circumstances of the shooting have fueled the protest. Although the Forestville resident had been searched and his hands were manacled behind his back, officers testified that he had a concealed gun and managed to twist his arms to his side and point it at them. They said they ordered him to drop it and, when he did not, they fired.

A county grand jury investigated the case and decided not to indict either officer.

Johnson noted that the shooting occurred in 1993 and that he was elected in 1995. "When I became state's attorney, all of the legal issues in this case had been resolved. This case went to the Clinton Justice Department, where Duval Patrick, an African American, conducted its own investigation and determined there was no criminal violation of the law.

"I have been working very hard, and I stand on my record of how I have pursued police misconduct," Johnson said. "I cannot break the law in order to enforce the law. These officers have been cleared under the only justice system that we have."

Madison said: "The protest will continue. This is not a political issue; this a question of justice versus injustice."

-- Hamil R. Harris

Injured Rabbi Back at Home

Rabbi Lynne F. Landsberg, who was severely injured in January when her Jeep hit black ice from a water main break in the District and crashed into a tree, is now home from a lengthy stay at two hospitals.

Sources close to the family said that she suffered severe brain damage but that they still hope for improvement.

Landsberg, 47, a leader in Washington's Jewish and interfaith communities, was driving her son to Sunday school on Reno Road in Northwest Washington on Jan. 10 when her vehicle hit a 12-foot patch of black ice from a water main break at Warren Street.

According to police, Landsberg was not driving in a manner to cause her to lose control of her vehicle. Neighbors there had called city workers 11 days before the accident asking for repairs, but they were not made. Another driver skidded on the same ice patch and crashed into a tree the morning of Landsberg's accident, police said.

Landsberg's son was not injured. She was in a coma for weeks at Georgetown University Hospital and then was transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, where she underwent intense therapy.

-- Valerie Strauss

Caiman Found in Fairfax Has New Home

The alligator-like caiman that was captured last month in Fairfax County's Lake Accotink has a new home in Luray, Va.

Mark Kilby, owner of the Luray Reptile Center and Dinosaur Park, said he adopted the 3 1/2-foot-long beast after he got a tip about its capture. He said he wanted to give the animal a home so it wouldn't be destroyed by animal wardens.

The caiman is now with the center's 100 other reptiles, which range from cobras to alligators. Kilby said that it is in a temporary tank but that he plans a permanent 8-by-8-foot display area for it. Schools use the center to educate children about reptiles and their importance to the environment. About 50,000 people visit the center each year, Kilby said.

Although the caiman was assumed to have been someone's pet, Fairfax animal shelter officials said no one called to claim it. County animal wardens had been looking for the caiman after it was sighted, but it was captured by a couple who live near the lake. They used a shoe lace and a fishing net.

-- Eric L. Wee