Montgomery to Pay $2 Million in Killing
Settlement Is One of Largest Involving Police
Montgomery County will pay $2 million to the family of a Wheaton man who was accidentally shot to death by a police officer in April and will spend an additional $1 million to promote better relationships between police and the public.
The county plans to mount video cameras in some Montgomery police cars to record interactions between officers and civilians and to fund programs to increase police sensitivity training and recruit minority officers, according to the agreement reached in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The award to the family is one of the largest amounts the county has paid to settle a police action.
In April, a Montgomery grand jury cleared Officer Sean Thielke, 30, of criminal wrongdoing in the death of Junious W. Roberts, 44, at a McDonald's on Georgia Avenue in the Glenmont area. The officer told the grand jury that he approached Roberts's car with his gun drawn because Roberts had fled when he stopped him earlier and that he believed Roberts was drunk and might drive off and kill someone.
Thielke said his gun discharged accidentally as he tried to pull Roberts from the car. Thielke, an officer for six years, returned to uniformed street patrol in the Wheaton police district in early May.
Critics who have complained about the treatment of minorities by county police point to the fatal April 14 shooting--the second of a black person by a white Montgomery officer during a three-week period.
New Montgomery Police Chief Charles A. Moose said former acting police chief Thomas Evans disciplined Thielke after finding that he violated department policy in the shooting. Moose said Maryland law prohibited him from giving details.
Starbucks Indictment Among 48 Counts
Suspect Pleads Not Guilty at Arraignment
The suspect in the 1997 triple homicide at a Georgetown Starbucks coffeehouse also is accused of killing a security guard in Northwest Washington in 1993 and of attempting to kill an off-duty Prince George's County police officer in 1996.
Carl Derek Cooper, who has been in custody since March in the Starbucks case, was charged in a 48-count federal indictment. The charges involved robberies in the District, Maryland and Pennsylvania and included racketeering, conspiracy, first-degree murder while armed and numerous weapons offenses.
Cooper, 30, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in U.S. District Court. By pursuing federal charges, prosecutors could seek the death penalty against Cooper.
Va. Students Improve on Exams
More Test Mastery Still Needed
Virginia's public school students did better than last year on the state's achievement tests but are still a long way from mastering the exams, which eventually will determine whether they can graduate.
Students who took the Standards of Learning exams last spring showed improvement on all 27 of the tests, and some of the gains were substantial. For example, 51 percent of high school students passed the Algebra II exam, compared with 31 percent in 1998, the first year the SOL tests were taken. The tests, which cover basic subjects, also are given in grades 3, 5 and 8.
Northern Virginia school districts posted better results in most or all of the areas tested. And educators concerned about the lagging performance of African American students were relieved to see that the gap between the statewide passing rates of whites and blacks has narrowed slightly.
The bad news is that at least 38 percent of the state's high school students still would have failed to meet graduation requirements if they had been in effect this year. Starting with the Class of 2004, students will have to pass six of the high school tests to earn a diploma.
Officials also haven't calculated yet how many schools this year reached the state's benchmarks for performance on the tests. Last year, only 2.2 percent of schools met the standards, which all schools must reach by 2007 to avoid losing their accreditation.
The latest results have not quieted the debate over the exams' effect on classroom instruction. Some educators complain that the tests, especially in history, reward memorization more than analytical skill and force teachers to prepare their students by drilling them on recall of facts.
"I think our [history] test scores will go up because we will become test-wise," said Principal Juanita Trotter, of Oakton Elementary School. "But I am not sure we want that for our children.
Across the Region
Gridlock, Growth, Gift of Land
* Debate about traffic problems in Northern Virginia is facing gridlock among legislators. A bipartisan quartet of legislators wants Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) to call a special one-day session of the General Assembly to appropriate surplus funds for stalled transportation projects. But Gilmore says the proposal "has more to do with political posturing than addressing Virginia's transportation needs in a serious way." For the legislature to meet over the governor's opposition, two-thirds of the members in each chamber would have to sign a petition. That seems unlikely, as initial reaction to the idea broke down along party lines. Democrats favor the session; most Republicans agree with the governor.
* Who is going to pay for growth? In Montgomery County, the County Council says developers may be the answer. The council is considering legislation that would create Montgomery's first countywide development tax to raise millions of dollars for roads and rail lines. In some areas, builders would pay as much as $8,000 per home. The building industry already is threatening to fight the development tax unless it receives assurances that cumbersome county regulations would be scaled back in return.
* Nearly 60,000 forested acres on the Eastern Shore could be protected from development in a deal being negotiated by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and a private charitable foundation. The transaction, which could be completed as early as Aug. 24, would be the largest land purchase in state history. Maryland would spend $16.5 million for about 29,000 acres from the Chesapeake Forest Products Co. The Richard King Mellon Foundation would purchase 29,000 acres for the same amount and eventually give the land to the state.
* The parents of a Chevy Chase teenager killed in August 1997 when a dump truck overturned on his car are trying to make some good come out of his death. Richard M. Cooper and Judith C. Areen, parents of 17-year-old Benjamin E. Cooper, are donating to four causes the $4.6 million settlement that they reached last week with a hauling firm and an excavation company. Last month, Cooper and Areen wrote letters to dozens of Washington area contractors and excavators, urging them to do a better job of monitoring trucking companies and drivers.
* A heat stroke caused the death of Patrick Dutch, a severely retarded man who was left unnoticed for five hours in the back of a van, the District's chief medical examiner, Jonathan L. Arden, said. He ruled Dutch's July 9 death an accident. Dutch, 41, was found in a van that was supposed to take him from his Northwest group home, operated by D.C. Health Care Inc., to a day program in Southeast Washington. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has ordered the city's health, human services and police departments to investigate Dutch's death.
* The living wage bill in Montgomery County officially died when the County Council voted against the legislation. The bill would have required most companies doing business with or receiving money from the county to pay employees more than twice the minimum wage. Living wage advocates are planning to push legislation in Prince George's County and the District later this year.
-- Phuong Ly
CAPTION: A television image from March shows Carl Derek Cooper leaving his house.
CAPTION: After the funeral of Junious W. Roberts, his brother, Thomas Lewis, right, watches Gina Roberts 10, Roberts's niece, embrace family friend Lynn Powell.
CAPTION: Junious W. Roberts, of Wheaton, died in April after he was accidentally shot by a Montgomery police officer.