- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s lead prosecutor said this week that preliminary findings suggest that a Hermanville area man killed last Thursday by a law officer died in a tragedy of his own making.
Detectives report that the sheriff’s deputy initially deployed a Taser and took other steps to subdue the suspect in a domestic assault before fatally shooting him. Deputy 1st Class Robert Gill, a six-year veteran of the agency, has been placed on routine administrative leave, the sheriff’s office reported, as detectives and internal-affairs officers continue their investigations of the confrontation which led to the death of 38-year-old Kotrell Omar Newsome.
Gill went to Newsome’s townhouse at Spinnaker Circle in the River Bay neighborhood at 3:19 p.m. Thursday responding to a report of a domestic assault, according to the sheriff’s office, and the deputy saw that Newsome’s wife had been injured. Detectives report that Kotrell Newsome became aggressive toward his family and the deputy, and that the officer attempted to take him into custody, before a violent struggle ensued between the two men.
“This officer believed he was in a struggle for his life, without question,” St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Richard D. Fritz (R) said Monday at his office in the county courthouse. “Apparently, [Newsome] ripped the Taser wires out.”
The deputy also struck Newsome with a small baton, but that didn’t subdue him either, Fritz said, and the deputy fired two shots from his handgun. Newsome died at the scene.
According to the prosecutor, Newsome’s wife told police, “I was scared to death that my husband had killed the police officer and he was coming out of the room to shoot me and my son.”
Gill had bruises and scratches on his face and neck, Fritz said, and there was additional physical evidence of the fight.
“The drywall was caved in where they were struggling up against the wall,” he said.
Detectives are investigating the shooting, as are deputies assigned to the agency’s office of professional responsibilities, and Fritz said his office will continue its own independent review.
“Thus far, it appears as if the homicide was justifiable,” the prosecutor said. “Tragic, but a tragedy caused by the decedent.”
Sheriff Tim Cameron (R) said Friday that the preliminary investigations have not determined whether or not the deputy’s actions conformed to the agency’s policies and procedures.
“It would be premature to make any comment,” the sheriff said.
A check of online court records indicated that Newsome had no prior offenses other than traffic tickets. The day before he was shot, a charge that Newsome was driving with a suspended license was dismissed in St. Mary’s district court.
Willie Newsome, the slain man’s father, said his son and 17-year-old grandson last visited him in North Carolina about a month ago, and that he came to St. Mary’s the day after the shooting.
“I just don’t see no reason for it. I don’t see that that should have happened,” Willie Newsome said Tuesday of his son’s death. “I have never known him to be in a fight with anybody. Like I told the police, he has never been a violent person. He had no weapon at all. The detective told us that.”
Eva Newsome, the slain man’s grandmother, said Tuesday from her home in North Carolina that he moved to Maryland when he was 18 to help his uncle’s work as a carpet installer, and that he had never shown a bad temper.
“He was a good boy,” she said, and she recalled her reaction last week to learning of her grandson’s death. “It liked to have killed me,” she said, “because he don’t bother nobody. It’s mighty bad.”
At the River Bay community, the day after the shooting, a neighbor said of Kotrell Newsome, “I thought he was pretty cool.”
By early this week, residents said, the slain man’s wife and the teenage boy had moved to another townhouse in the community. Another resident said of Newsome, “He was quiet. I never had any problem with him. He kept to himself.”
Fritz said Newsome’s lack of a criminal record was consistent with the unpredictable nature of domestic violence calls, which the prosecutor said result in more police deaths than any other crime.
“That’s the nature of a volatile situation, a domestic dispute,” the prosecutor said, when someone is taken into custody. “You never know how they’re going to react during an arrest procedure.”