Three former Maryland correctional officers have been indicted on charges of second-degree murder in the death of a detainee during a violent confrontation in May at a state-run pretrial detention center in Baltimore, authorities said yesterday.
The guards -- Nathan D. Colbert, 42, and James L. Hatcher, 43, both of Baltimore, and Dameon C. Woods, 33, of Baltimore County -- were taken into custody yesterday. All three are being held at an undisclosed location outside the city and are expected to appear in court for a bail review next week, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office said.
They are charged in the May 14 death of Raymond Smoot, a detainee at the Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center, a crowded facility that is one of the busiest booking centers in the country. Because the indictment against them remained sealed, it was unclear yesterday precisely what role each man is alleged to have played in Smoot's death.
One of Smoot's adult children, Kenya Kelly, said she was gratified by the arrests and looking forward to seeing the cases to their conclusions.
"I really feel for families that have to experience what my family has had to experience," Kelly, 34, said. "It should not have happened. There should have been better outlets for the correctional officers to take instead of killing my father."
Corrections authorities have said officers called for assistance after Smoot, 51, defied orders to enter his cell. A struggle followed, they have said, and Smoot was injured. The state medical examiner's office ruled that the death was a homicide, saying Smoot died of "multiple injuries."
Eight correctional officers were fired the month after Smoot's death. The investigation is continuing and more arrests are possible, said Joe Sviatko, the spokesman for the Baltimore prosecutor's office.
Attempts to identify attorneys for the guards late yesterday were unsuccessful. Sviatko said they may not yet have lawyers.
Kim Howard, president of the Maryland Correctional Law Enforcement Union, said she was "appalled" at the decision to charge Colbert, who is represented by the union. She said Colbert arrived at Smoot's cell, in the company of a major, only after the incident had concluded.
"If the lower employees are getting terminated and indicted, then some of those people who were in management's heads should roll as well," she said.
Smoot, who lived in Randallstown, Md., was arrested May 3 on a warrant charging him with missing a court date in late September, the latest in a string of relatively minor charges against him over more than two decades. He was held on $1,500 bond pending a June 2 court date.
A. Dwight Pettit, Kelly's attorney, has said that other detainees said that Smoot was savagely beaten by a number of guards after a confrontation with two female guards. Once Smoot was down, Pettit says, guards kicked him in the head repeatedly and so violently that one of Smoot's eyes was knocked from its socket and his face was left unrecognizable.
One of the guards, Pettit said yesterday, then celebrated the beating. "It was this one that ran up and down the corridor with his hands over his head like it was a football game, screaming profanities," he said.