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Officer Kevon M. Gavin Sr.

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Officer Kevon M. Gavin Sr.

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On the night of 21 April 2000, Officer Kevon M. Gavin Sr. answered the call to assist an undercover unit that was pursuing a wanted felon who had just opened fire on a crowd of citizens on a corner, then sped off. Undercover units were doing narcotics surveillance when Eric Stennett drove up in his Ford Bronco and unleashed a hail of bullets on the citizens at that location. Mr. Stennet’s primary motivation was to take over a drug corner that he believed to be his. The undercover officers began to pursue the Ford Bronco as Mr. Stennet sped off. Officer Kevon Gavin Sr. parked his car on the street to safeguard citizens that were in the path of the ongoing pursuit. Officer Gavin left plenty of room for the speeding Bronco to drive around. Mr. Stennet steered his large truck directly into the front end of Officer Gavin’s patrol car, coming to rest on top of Officer Gavin’s car. Officer Gavin was transported to the Shock Trauma Unit at the University of Maryland Hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds. Officer Gavin was married with three children, ages 1, 5, and 8.

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The time was approximately 8:00 pm, a tan 1985 Ford Bronco with limo tint pulled up in front of an abandoned row home in the 2000 block of Wilkens Ave. near Carroll Park in Baltimore’s Southwest District. Seated on some steps nearby were two men, they were talking smack, and drinking beer, their backs resting on the boarded-up door front. The driver of the Bronco, a scrawny little 17-year-old black male, trying to make a name for himself got out took a few steps toward the curb. Wrapping a bandana around his shooting hand, drew a heavy, chrome-plated handgun and opened fire on the corner.

His intended targets ran for cover as the gun made reports loud enough to alert a nearby team of plain close police; the muzzle flash and smoke barely evaporating from the air as the ground was being littered with his empty brass (shell casings). It’s easy to shoot at the unarmed, the weak, unprepared, or unsuspecting, but when four trained, armed and ready Baltimore Police Officers, all members of a crime-suppression team out on detail that night, who just happened to have been nearby in an unmarked car, followed the sound of the gunfire arriving on scene in time to see the shooter; they quickly pulled in behind his Bronco, as he fired his last few rounds of ammunition while making his way back to the driver side of his Bronco.

The officers had already whipped in behind that truck. But as they bailed out of their car to arrest the gunman, the Bronco pulled off. Within parts of a second, police had already radioed every car in the area a description of that 1985, Tan Ford Bronco, and its heavily armed driver. Squad cars began converging on the area known to officers of the Southwest as Sector 2. Within minutes of the first radio transmission a procession of cruisers follow the Bronco in the direction of Officer Kevon Gavin, little did anyone know this wouldn’t be last time we would have a procession or police headed in the direction of, or behind young Officer Kevon Gavin, but in this first procession and along in its wake, the Bronco tore through red light after red light, narrowly missing passing cars as he barreled across grass medians on Martin Luther King Boulevard and veered westbound onto Lombard Street.

Officers say they glanced at their speedometers only briefly seeing speeds of 80, 90, 100 and some say as much as 105 miles per hour. Yet they still heard officers calling out on their radios, “He's pulling away from us like we're standing still" Seconds later, two senior officers - a sergeant and a lieutenant - rolled into position on a cross street a few blocks away, timing their next move to the location reports pouring in over their radio. When the Bronco was a block away, Sgt. David Wimmer gunned his patrol car left onto Lombard to take up a position in front of the approaching truck. No sooner had Sgt. Wimmer made his turn, then the Bronco shot past, still building speed. In a split second, it pulled away at 100 miles an hour ... to 105 on city streets, everyone is running on pure adrenaline. They are thinking faster, seeing fast and acting faster… you have to, or you’ll lose total control, the police are drawing on experience, streets they have patrolled for years, turns they have made 100’s if not 1000’s of times before, they know where pot holes are, bumps in the road that could throw their car from side to side or even airborne, and while this is never safe, it isn’t as dangerous for a trained police officer as it is for a 16/17-year-old kid, which became terrible obvious in the next few blocks, and was witnessed and seen coming by Lieutenant Mary Eilerman who was seated next to Sergeant Wimmer and described the events that will follow as suddenly getting a sick feeling in her stomach. Two blocks ahead, she saw a disaster in the making. At that moment, Officer Kevon Gavin, 27 – and a six-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, Husband and father of three small children - was pulling his 1995 Chevy Caprice cruiser into the intersection at Gilmor Street as if to block the road from the Ford in hopes of ending the chase, while protecting the people in the neighborhood.

"He came around that corner in what seemed to be an almost slow motion," Eilerman would later testify, then turned left onto Lombard, directly into the path of the truck. In his car trailing the Bronco, Sgt. Wimmer had time to see the emergency lights swirling on the roof of Gavin's car up ahead. He heard Gavin's siren and thought he saw the Bronco sideswipe a parked car as it raced toward Gilmor Street. Then, in the blink of an eye, the Bronco rocketed into the left-front side of Gavin's patrol car and burst into flames, as it forced the police cruiser along Lombard in a vortex of shattered glass, sheered chrome, twisting steel, there was a strong scent of burning rubber more than 100 feet before it all came to rest. The ball of smoke and metal, with the burning Bronco piled up on the hood of Gavin's cruiser and the officer trapped in the wreckage will be forever in the minds of not only those that were there, those that saw it, felt it, and smelled the smoke, rubber, blood and tears, But those that knew everyone involved, or experienced similar accidents where the loss of a brother or sister officer was the final outcome. Here we had a Sergeant, a Lieutenant in Wimmer and Eilerman along with a dozen or more officers rushed to their injured brother. Trapped inside the squad car, they found Officer Kevon Malik Gavin pinned under the dashboard - unconscious, bloody and barely breathing. The officers threw their shoulders into the demolished Bronco in a hopeless attempt to lift it off their friend.

Suddenly someone yelled, "Signal 13! Signal 13! Officer down!" into their radio, as Officers reached inside the demolished patrol car, desperately ripping at Gavin's clothing and bulletproof vest, trying to administer first aid, CPR and other first responder needs, including someone having to kick in a rear window and Officer Frank Jarrell squirming inside - clawing his way over the cruiser's torn upholstery before realizing that the situation was hopeless. Lieutenant Eilerman would eventually testify that "It was the most desperate, frustrating situation, I have ever witnessed" The street would eventually become clogged with patrol cars, lights whirling, sirens screaming and more police in the area than was actually needed, but knowing the public and how quickly things could get out of hand, so in situations like this we bring in every available unit. Lieutenant Eilerman went from officer to officer, grabbing them by the shoulders, asking them to make sure they move their cruisers and clear the way for incoming fire emergency units and equipment. Within minutes, paramedics and firefighters were climbing all over the wreckage, clamping air on the injured officer’s face and maneuvering heavy rescue gear into place to make it safe for the jaws of life to come in and tear the roof off that patrol car. It would take an hour to safely extract Officer Gavin from his car, and then another 20 hours of our brother fighting for his life, before the actions of a selfish little boy would take the life of that officer. As all this was going on, and police and medics were working feverously to save the life of Officer Gavin, there were other officers approaching the Bronco, inside of which they found a box of ammunition, a Smith & Wesson 10 mm semiautomatic pistol, a blue baseball cap bearing the logo of the Indianapolis Pacers basketball team and that scrawny little 17-year-old punk named Eric D. Stennett. Stennett’s a record of drug arrests, and gun violence would trace back to his 13th birthday, a record that when printed out would reach further that Stennett could toward the ceiling. There was no one else was in the Bronco, no chance of mistaken identity, and not a shadow of doubt that it was him, and him only that night seen shooting his pistol into a crowd, driving recklessly throughout the city reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, and causing the loss of life, in that of Baltimore Police Officer Kevon Malik Gavin, yet when it came time for a Baltimore Jury punish someone for killing one of their own… they dropped the ball… But like Robert F. Kennedy said, “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on." Look at Baltimore now… this doesn’t happen in our neighborhoods because we demand better, we demand more… when someone breaks into house of our neighbors we stop them, have then arrested or chase them off… because when we don’t, we end up with this kind of crime in our neighborhood. A jury was blinded by Dwight Pettit...

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Thousands mourn loss of police officer
Kevon Gavin recalled as a man devoted to family, friends, city

April 28, 2000|By Peter Hermann

Yesterday's tearful funeral was not enough to understand how Kevon Malik Gavin policed the dangerous streets of Baltimore. It was at the viewings this week that the residents Gavin so often helped completed his profile.

A man Gavin had twice rescued after falling from his wheelchair. A drug addict he counseled into treatment. A woman Gavin visited three days after her house was vandalized, just to check on her. 

They were among more than 1,000 mourners who came to Loudon Park Funeral Home Tuesday and Wednesday to pay tribute to the 27-year-old officer. He was killed last week when a teen-ager fleeing police crashed into his cruiser in West Baltimore.

"He chose to live a life of honor," said his cousin, Shaun Gavin, during yesterday's two-hour service in a small chapel of the funeral home on Wilkens Avenue in Southwest Baltimore.

Mayor Martin O'Malley said he talked to dozens of residents Gavin had helped during his six-year career. The mother of the man who kicked his drug habit, the mayor said, "smiled like only a mom can smile and told me, `My son has been returned to me. Officer Gavin talked to him.'"

The city's chief executive told mourners that Gavin knew "justice is more important than any fear he may have felt" on the street. "He was called to protect his fellow citizens, and he served with dignity and with honor and with distinction."

Gavin was eulogized at a service attended by more than 3,000 colleagues from virtually every jurisdiction in Maryland and from cities across the region.

The chapel had seats for only 250 people -- most had to stand outside and listen on speakers as a cold drizzle turned to a steady rain by noon.

A procession of more than 600 police cars wound its way around the Baltimore Beltway to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium, where Gavin's wife, Lisa, was presented with the flag that had been draped across the casket, along with her husband's cap and badge.

He was remembered as a loving and devoted family man who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., and escaped the scourge of drugs that claimed many of his friends. He joined the Navy and moved to Baltimore six years ago when the city department offered him a job.

Gavin left the city force to take a better-paid police job in Prince George's County, but he returned to Baltimore after three months because he felt he could make more of a difference in the city.

He died trying to stop a 17-year-old who police say was wearing body armor when he opened fire on a Southwest Baltimore street corner with a 10 mm handgun, wounding a man in the leg, and fleeing in a Ford Bronco.

Police said the Bronco was going 95 mph when it slammed into Gavin's cruiser -- which he was using to block West Lombard Street -- on April 20. He died a day later, on Good Friday. The teen-age driver has been charged with first-degree murder.

Relatives and friends preferred to remember the good times they had with Gavin, who had a son, Kevon Gavin Jr., 15 months, and two stepchildren, Shawn, 5, and Amber, 8.

They told of how the former military man disciplined his children by making them stand at attention or do push-ups. His partner, Norris Wells, said they were so close they shared a locker. His cousin, Shaun Gavin, said the officer was never happy unless he was eating, and that "he always managed to show up at your door just in time for dinner."

The circumstances of Gavin's death could not be ignored. "How could someone so young so suddenly be taken from us without hesitation and concern," Shaun Gavin said. He added that his cousin "would be the first to forgive."

That was not so easy for O'Malley. "When I was 17, I was just glad to have the keys to the car," he told reporters before the funeral. "I didn't put on a bulletproof vest when I went out for the night."

Inside the chapel, O'Malley told mourners that "we cannot accept what has happened."

Those thoughts were echoed by acting police Commissioner Edward T. Norris, a former New York officer who once worked with Gavin's uncle, Dennis Gavin, who remains with the New York Police Department and attended yesterday's services.

"I still can't make any sense of this," Norris said. "Trying to make sense of madness is never going to happen."

Norris said Gavin was one of the first officers he met when he was named Baltimore's police leader last month.

Thursday night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, as Gavin stayed alive only with the help of life support, Norris said he turned to O'Malley and shook his head in disbelief: "Why do we always lose the good ones?"

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City's court woes grow
After two big setbacks for prosecutors, trial in mass killing put off
`A kick in the gut'
Previous losses show that jurors distrust police, Jessamy says

January 25, 2001|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Having just lost two highly publicized murder cases in the past week, Baltimore prosecutors risk losing another after a judge ordered a long delay yesterday in the trial of suspects in one of the city's worst mass killings.

The case against four men charged in the killing of five women in Northeast Baltimore in December 1999 will be postponed eight months, which could result in its dismissal, the judge said. He acted after prosecutors failed to promptly disclose evidence to defense attorneys.

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy said during a news conference yesterday that she will take steps to bring the case to trial sooner.

She called the conference to address issues raised by the two recent acquittals of men charged in the killing Officer Kevon M. Gavin and dental student Christian W. Ludwig. She said those cases highlight deep community mistrust of police and a problem of unsophisticated juries.

Jessamy said prosecutors presented "overwhelming" evidence for convictions in both cases, which ended in acquittals. Gavin died after a shooting suspect, Eric D. Stennett, crashed into him while fleeing police at a high speed.

Ludwig was stabbed as he tried to retrieve a purse stolen from his friend. The suspect, David Terry, was acquitted of all charges but one Tuesday. Yesterday, prosecutors dropped the final charge after jurors voted 11 to one to acquit.

Because most of the witnesses in the cases were police officers, the verdicts highlighted a serious distrust of law enforcement, she said.

The verdicts showed "a palpable bias against police officers in the community," Jessamy said. "It reveals to us a belief that police lie, manufacture evidence and are not to be trusted.

"We need to look at the biases that exist and how we can better recognize those so that we can assure that our community which needs justice gets justice," she added.

She said she wants to lengthen jury selection so that prosecutors have more time to ask in-depth questions to determine whether jurors have prejudice, and bring in consultants to train prosecutors how to detect problem jurors. She has also offered to help teach police officers how to build strong cases for juries.

In addition, she wants to educate jurors about the justice system.

"It is crucial, crucial that our community be educated and trained and that people who are called to participate in the jury process understand the role that they are being asked to play," Jessamy said. "These verdicts were a kick in the gut, but we see it as an opportunity to make our system better."

Jurors and police officers, however, may have nothing to do with the fate of the case against four men accused in the Northeast Baltimore mass slaying.

Judge David B. Mitchell, chief of the city's criminal docket, postponed the case for eight months - until Sept. 4 - after it came to light that prosecutors had not disclosed witness statements to defense attorneys in the case.

Mitchell refused to grant what is known as "good cause" for the postponement - essentially his stamp of approval - because he felt that prosecutors could have avoided the delay by disclosing the evidence earlier.

That means the case could be at risk for dismissal on grounds that it violates the defendants' rights for a speedy trial when it comes up again in September. By that point, the defendants will have been waiting nearly two years for a trial. Long trial delays can be excused if a judge approves them, but a large portion of the delay in this case will not have been.

"Unfortunately, the ultimate sanction [may be] dismissal of this case," Mitchell said at the hearing yesterday. "This is ridiculous. This is not a possession-of-marijuana case ... so why didn't we take an ounce of precaution to prevent this horrible result?"

The men on trial are Robert Bryant, Travon McCoy, Tariq A. Malik and Ismail Malik Wilson. Police said the killings were meant to send a message to the women's relatives who were involved in a drug dispute.

The statements at issue were given to police months ago and suggest men other than the defendants as the killers of the women in the Elmley Avenue rowhouse. The judge scheduled to hear the trial ruled yesterday morning that the prosecutors' last minute disclosure of the statements did not amount to prosecutorial misconduct.

But he referred the case to Mitchell, who oversees all postponement requests, so that defense attorneys could have more time to investigate the information raised.

At the postponement hearing, Mitchell said the trial judge thought the statements were "marginally exculpatory" but should have been turned over to the defense.

When Assistant State's Attorney Lawrence Doan suggested to Mitchell that the trial be scheduled for next week to give the defense some time to investigate, the judge criticized him.

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More details

NameDescription
End of Watch April 21, 2000
City, St. Baltimore City, Maryland, P.D.
Panel Number 14-W: 22
Cause of Death Vehicular Homicide
Weapon - Vehicle
District Worked Southwestern

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