Fallen 1997 Smith Oliver

Memorial to Oliver W. Smith

Officer Killed in the Line of Duty
End of Watch: February 26, 1997
Rank: Officer  Badge No. ___
Age: 27
Years of Service: 3
Location of Death: 4400 Blk. Rena Rd, Forestville, MD

 

 Circumstances

Officer Smith was shot and killed outside of his apartment in Forestville, Maryland, while off duty during a robbery attempt. Officer Smith was returning home from his shift in civilian clothes when three suspects approached him as he was exiting his vehicle outside of his home. During the robbery they made him lie face down. As they searched him they found his duty weapon and badge and then shot him three times in the back of his head as he lay on the ground. The three suspects were arrested and charged with first degree murder of Officer Oliver W. Smith on February 26, 1997.

Biography

Officer Smith was raised in the Washington area and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration before joining the force. He lived with his wife and a 5-year-old son in the Forestville apartment.

Articles from the Washington Post – transcribed by Dave Richardson, MPD/Ret.

WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 27, 1997, PAGE D1

Officer Slain Outside Md. Home in Apparent Robbery

An off-duty District police officer was fatally shot outside his Forestville apartment complex yesterday morning, apparently by a robber who fled with the officer’s gun, wallet and possibly his badge.

The killing of Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., 27, who was not in uniform, recalled the fatal shooting just two months ago of a D.C. correctional officer in Hyattsville. In that case, Prince George’s police arrested two suspects who they believe killed the correctional officer after spotting his badge during a robbery.

The death of another officer highlighted the level of violence that has become the norm in parts of Prince George’s County, Washington’s most crime-plagued suburb. Hours after the shooting, County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) and Police Chief John S. Farrell proceeded with a scheduled news conference announcing a campaign against violent crime.

As 100 police cadets from Prince George’s and the District searched the scene of the slaying yesterday morning, Curry announced plans to hire more than 100 officers in the next year and a half, even if it meant “choking the rest of the government” to find the more than $7 million needed to do so.

Calling Smith’s slaying “sickening,” Curry also launched an expensive initiative attacking “gun corridors” along the District line — eight high-traffic roads between Washington and Prince George’s with concentrations of gun crimes. Extra officers, many of them paid overtime, will pull over motorists along those routes for minor infractions and search for firearms, Curry said.

Although violent crime fell 7.8 percent throughout Prince George’s last year, it remains concentrated in the older, less-well-off neighborhoods inside the Capital Beltway, and Farrell said crime in communities along the District line has been his greatest challenge.

“Many of the individuals committing crimes in the county neither live nor work here,” Farrell said. “They come to prey on our community.”

He said the criminals take advantage of the lack of law enforcement coordination between the two jurisdictions, shuttling back and forth to escape arrest.

He also said the department has identified 3,800 District residents who were arrested in Prince George’s last year for serious crimes. Police made about 14,000 arrests last year.

In Mount Rainier, a tiny community along Washington’s northeast border, police installed a surveillance camera at 34th Street and Rhode Island Avenue as part of a crackdown on drug dealers. Some merchants said the plan was working.

“It’s doing what it was intended to do,” said Jimmy Powell, owner of Abdallas Newsstand. “It’s changed overnight.”

But police said the crackdown has met some resistance in recent weeks: A police car was torched, and three others were vandalized. Police arrested a Landover man Tuesday night and charged him with second-degree arson.

A few hours later, about 2:40 a.m. yesterday, county officers responded to a report of gunshots in Forestville and found Smith’s body on the pavement next to his red 1988 Acura Legend, just yards from the door to his home off Rena Road. Sources said that he had been shot twice in the back of the head and that his pockets had been turned out.

Police were unable to locate shell casings at the crime scene, suggesting that the killer used a revolver or picked them up before fleeing. A dark-colored, subcompact vehicle was seen leaving the area quickly, but police said they have no suspects. The department said a $2,000 reward had been posted and asked anyone with information to call 301-735-1111.

Investigators have not determined whether the killer or killers realized Smith was an officer, nor do they know the motive for the slaying. But sources said detectives are examining the possibility that one or two robbers confronted Smith as he was getting out of his car, discovered he was a law enforcement officer and decided to execute him.

The circumstances are similar to the slaying of a D.C. correctional officer in the parking lot of a Kmart in Hyattsville on New Year’s Eve. Police arrested two men this month who they said shot Cpl. Amos Williams Jr., 31, in the head after seeing the badge clipped to his belt. He was the county’s 142nd homicide victim in 1996 and its last of the year. Smith was the 24th person slain in Prince George’s in 1997.

In Washington, officers already saddened by the killing of Officer Brian T. Gibson, who was gunned down three weeks ago as he sat in his cruiser at a red light, mourned the loss of another comrade. Colleagues said Smith, who joined the force less than three years ago, already had earned a reputation as a hard-charging, conscientious officer who loved police work.

Assigned to the 2nd Police District, which covers Northwest Washington west of Rock Creek Park, Smith usually patrolled on motorcycle a beat that included the upper-middle-class neighborhoods of Chevy Chase, American University Park, Friendship Heights, Cleveland Park and Woodley Park.

“He was proud of being a police officer,” said Inspector Jacqueline Barnes, Smith’s commander. She said Smith made an immediate impression when, as a rookie in 1995, he and his partner responded to a first-degree burglary in progress — a situation in which people are inside the home the burglar is entering — and arrested the suspect.

“This was a guy who was so motivated and so concerned about doing a good job,” said Sgt. Steven O’Dell, one of Smith’s first supervisors. “He was always trying to do the right thing. He was a man of principle. . . . He was a very good officer.”

Officer Melicia Woodland, one of Smith’s training officers, recalled Smith’s eagerness when she showed him the ropes. “He wanted to make a good impression,” she said.

Woodland and other officers said Smith didn’t mind working long hours. They could always count on him to volunteer for overtime or special details.

“If he could work 24 hours a day, he would,” said Officer Gary Dowdy, whose locker is next to Smith’s.

Police officials said Smith was raised in the Washington area and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration before joining the force. He lived with his wife and a 5-year-old son in the Forestville apartment.

Police said Smith worked as a part-time security guard at the Mirage, a nightclub in Southeast Washington. The club was closed the night of his slaying.

Investigators said he punched out at the 2nd District at 11 p.m. and left about a half-hour later.

They have not been able to determine his whereabouts between then and the shooting.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED FEBRUARY 28, 1997, PAGE B3

Sources Report Strong Leads in Officer’s Slaying

Prince George’s County police detectives searched yesterday for the killer of an off-duty District police officer, and sources said they had several strong, concrete leads and were optimistic about announcing an arrest soon.

Police spokesman Royce Holloway acknowledged that the department had received useful tips from residents about the fatal shooting early Wednesday morning of Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., 27, outside his Forestville apartment complex. But Holloway declined to comment on the substance of the investigation.

“We’re not releasing the details of the information in fear of jeopardizing the investigation,” Holloway said. He said detectives questioned several people yesterday, but he declined to classify them as witnesses or suspects.

Smith, who graduated from the police academy less than three years ago, was killed about 2:40 a.m. in the parking lot of his apartment building off Rena Road, the victim of an apparent robbery. Sources said that his gun, wallet and possibly his badge were missing. He was not in uniform.

The slaying was similar to the slaying two months ago of a D.C. correctional officer in the parking lot of a Kmart in Hyattsville. Police arrested two men in that case who they believe shot Cpl. Amos Williams Jr., 31, in the head after seeing his badge.

Detectives are focusing on the possibility that one or more robbers confronted Smith as he was getting out of his red 1988 Acura Legend, then decided to execute him with two shots to the back of his head after discovering that he was a police officer, sources said.

Police did not find shell casings at the scene of the shooting, suggesting that the killer picked them up before fleeing or used a revolver instead of a semiautomatic handgun. A dark-colored, late-model subcompact car was seen leaving the area quickly, police said.

 

Smith served as a patrol officer in the 2nd Police District, which covers the part of the city west of Rock Creek Park. Colleagues have rolled his motorcycle into the lobby of the station and placed his photograph next to it.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 1, 1997, PAGE B1

3 Arrested In Slaying of D.C. Officer; Man Was Killed After Robbers Found Badge, Police Say

Moments before his death, Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. told the three robbers standing over him in the parking lot of his Forestville apartment complex that he had a wife and young son, police sources said yesterday.

But when his assailants opened his wallet and discovered that Smith was a D.C. police officer early Wednesday morning, they forced him to the pavement and fired three bullets into the back of his head, investigators said. Smith, 27, was “murdered in cold blood,” Prince George’s Police Chief John S. Farrell told reporters last night.

Yesterday, after an intense manhunt across the Washington area, county police announced the arrests of the three men they say followed Smith to his home off Rena Road and killed him during a robbery. All three have been charged with first-degree murder.

At a somber news conference last night, Farrell offered his “deepest sympathy and condolences” to Smith’s family and to his colleagues on the D.C. police force. Then, he described what he called a “brutal, senseless murder.”

“They saw the badge; they recognized the badge as belonging to the Metropolitan Police Department,” Farrell said. “While still lying face down on the ground, Officer Smith was murdered, execution-style.”

Investigators said that they were certain the suspects realized they were killing a police officer but that officers had not determined whether the three were motivated by hate for the police or by fear that the officer might later identify them.

“But there’s no doubt they killed him because he was an officer,” one police official said.

Police said the three suspects were “looking for someone to rob” and spotted Smith shortly before 2:40 a.m. as he was returning home from a bar he went to after ending his shift at the city’s 2nd Police District. They watched him install an anti-theft device on the steering wheel of his red 1988 Acura Legend, sources said, then confronted him just yards from the door to his building.

Police said the three men forced Smith to the ground, searched him and took his gun, wallet and badge before shooting him.

Police said the triggerman was Antwan Delonta Brown, 23, of Landover. He was arrested in 1993 in Prince George’s and charged with possession of drugs with the intent to distribute and distributing drugs while armed with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

Undercover Prince George’s police officers arrested him yesterday at a traffic stop on Route 1 north of Mount Vernon in Fairfax County after a round-the-clock investigation led by Jeff Reichert, a veteran homicide detective. Police had arrested the other two suspects — Anthony Allen Crawley, 38, and Donovan Shawn Strickland, 29 — a day earlier but had asked reporters to withhold that information until they captured Brown.

Crawley and Strickland, whose last known addresses were in the District, have been arrested about a dozen times each in the last decade, on weapons, narcotics, theft and assault charges. When Smith was killed, police said, Crawley was on bond awaiting trial in Prince George’s for a drug arrest in January. Strickland was awaiting trial in Prince George’s for charges of theft and an assault on a police officer.

The break in the investigation came early Thursday, when an informant told investigators that someone tried to sell him Smith’s police-issued Glock-17 9mm semiautomatic handgun. According to court records, the informant picked Strickland’s picture from a photo spread.

Officers picked up Strickland near Benning Road and Marlboro Pike in Capitol Heights that day, then arrested Crawley at his parents’ home on Fifth Street NW about 5 p.m.

Police said they still were searching for the murder weapon, as well as Smith’s gun, wallet and badge. They have seized the car Brown was driving, a 1984 Oldsmobile believed to be the getaway car.

Farrell expressed frustration that all three suspects had prior criminal records.

“The system has got to find a way to associate consequences with violent crimes and felonies,” he said. “There needs to be some semblance of truth in sentencing.”

He said taxpayers spend millions of dollars on police and prosecutors only to “recycle” criminals again and again. “It’s a fraud on the public,” he said. “We have got to find a way to hold these people — especially those who are using guns and committing violent crimes — in jail.”

The slaying was similar to the fatal shooting two months ago of a D.C. correctional officer in the parking lot of a Kmart in Hyattsville. Police arrested two men in that case who they say shot Cpl. Amos Williams Jr., 31, in the head after seeing his badge. A grand jury indicted the suspects yesterday on charges of first-degree murder.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE MARCH 2, 1997, PAGE B3

Family, Colleagues Mourn Slain Officer; Candlelight Vigil Is Held Outside District Police Headquarters

Five-year-old Oliver Wendell Smith III said the same prayer every night before going to bed. “Dear Jesus, help me to be a good boy. Help my dad be a cop, and please bring him back to me so we can be a family.”

Last night, the little boy’s grandfather recited that prayer at a candlelight vigil outside District police headquarters, held to remember Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., 27, who police said was shot dead by robbers early Wednesday outside his Forestville apartment complex.

“This is not just about my son. It’s about all the other sons dying in the line of duty,” Oliver Wendell Smith Sr., told about 150 police officers, relatives and friends at the ceremony. He read out 11 names of other slain District officers and added, “I thank the Lord my son’s name will be on the same wall with these valiant men.”

Smith’s widow, Chandra, stood silently, holding her son’s hand. A number of officers had brought their own children, who stood solemnly holding candles along with the adults. Lt. Keith Roch, Smith’s platoon leader in the 2nd Police District, was there in full uniform; his son Ryan, 6, wore his father’s badge around his neck.

“I’m the son of a cop, so I can relate to this from both ends,” said Roch, who described Smith as a quiet, conservative and reliable young officer. “I brought my son because I wanted him to see how the police take care of their own.”

D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby praised the Prince George’s police for their fast work in the case. After an intense manhunt, three men were arrested Thursday and Friday in the slaying, which police described as an armed robbery that turned into an execution once the suspects realized their victim was a police officer.

Yesterday, Cpl. Barry Beam said county police found the revolver believed to have been used in the shooting in the car of Antwan D. Brown, 23, of Landover. Brown is one of the three arrested in Smith’s death. Police have not found Smith’s service weapon or his badge. Smith, who was off-duty, was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range after the assailants opened his wallet and saw his identification, police said.

At the vigil, Smith’s father described how his son had obtained an accounting degree in college but was determined to be a police officer. “This wasn’t a job. It was something he loved doing,” the elder Smith said. He spoke several times of the “extended family” of police who had reached out to comfort Smith’s relatives.

A wake for Smith will be held today from 3 to 5 p.m. at First Baptist Church at 6801 Sheriff Rd., Landover.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE MARCH 2, 1997, PAGE B3

Family, Colleagues Mourn Slain Officer; Candlelight Vigil Is Held Outside District Police Headquarters

Overcast skies and a light rain provided the backdrop yesterday as dozens of relatives, friends and colleagues paid their respects to slain D.C. police Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr.

“I just don’t know what to say to my officers,” D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby said outside Highland Park Baptist Church in Landover, where the wake was held.

Officer Brian T. Gibson “is shot while stopped at a traffic light, and now we have a case of one being stalked and murdered in a senseless and brutal act,” Soulsby said.

Smith, 27, was gunned down early Wednesday outside his apartment in Forestville during an apparent robbery as he returned home from working the evening shift.

Prince George’s County police investigators believe Smith was followed by three men after he stopped to buy gasoline across the street from his apartment complex. The men ordered Smith to lie on the ground, then shot him three times in the back of the head, police said. Three men have been charged in the killing.

Pierre Ligonde, a friend of Smith’s for the last five years, described the officer as “one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.”

“He was not really outgoing, but he understood people, and everyone liked him,” Ligonde said. “I can’t imagine him having any enemies at all.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 4, 1997, PAGE D1

D.C. Police Gather Again To Bury One of Their Own; Officer Slain in Holdup Eulogized in Somber Ceremony

Hundreds of D.C. police officers still recovering from the death of one colleague gathered again yesterday to say goodbye to another, Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., who was slain execution-style last week by robbers in front of his Forestville home.

For the officers, the scene was all too familiar: the color guards standing at attention, the somber, miles-long motorcade through the District, the melancholy bagpipe chords, the bugler playing taps. It had been only three weeks since the last such ceremony, to honor Officer Brian T. Gibson, a 27-year-old patrolman gunned down as he sat in his cruiser at a red light.

Now, here they were again, like a family mourning the loss of a second son, standing in the cold rain and under a gray sky, to bury another 27-year-old officer whose life had ended suddenly and violently.

At once weary and defiant, the men and women in blue sought solace in the words of a police chaplain: Their friend was now “in the land where bullets are unknown, where police forces are not needed and where joy will reign supreme.”

Sitting in the hard pews of a crowded Landover church and standing in the mud at a cemetery in Suitland, many considered how Smith had died — shot three times in the back of the head by robbers who opened his wallet and discovered he was a police officer — and they thought to themselves: That could be me.

That could be my commander standing in the pulpit and fighting back tears. Those could be my parents weeping in the front row. That could be my wife sitting right behind them, rocking back and forth with my young son in her lap.

“It could have been any one of us,” said Officer Byron Carrington, who was in the police academy with Smith three years ago. “And that makes you think. . . . It brings home the reality of the job.”

Public officials tried to comfort them with words.

Eugene N. Hamilton, chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, said Smith represented “what we would like to see in our own children.” Mayor Marion Barry asked mourners to remember Smith’s life — what he called “a good dash, a selfless dash.” Prince George’s County Executive Wayne K. Curry said Smith “made the sacrifice to keep us safe.”

But the applause was loudest when the city’s two top law enforcement officials, Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby and U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr., gave voice to the sad frustration among the rank and file.

“How long, America? How long, Washington, D.C.? How many more times will we gather in sorrow on occasions like this?” Holder asked.

Soulsby called the three men arrested by Prince George’s County police in Smith’s death “cowards, hunters of the night, predators with no fear of the police, of prosecutors, of the courts.”

He compared the fight against crime to the Vietnam War, saying the public isn’t committed to winning. “Enough is enough!” he said, his voice rising. “When we get predators like these, who have no concern for our people, they should not see the light of day again!”

And then, shaking with emotion, he concluded, “Let’s hope we never appear here again.”

When the two-hour service at First Baptist Church of Highland Park ended, six officers carried Smith’s flag-draped coffin into the rain. Smith’s widow, Chandra, emerged from the church with her 5-year-old son, Oliver Wendell III, a step in front of her.

Wearing a blue blazer and gray slacks that were a bit too long, the boy placed his left hand at his cheek in a child’s salute. Gazing in awe at the hundreds of officers standing at attention in the street before him, his mouth formed a little “o.”

Then came the long motorcade, 227 police cars and private vehicles following the hearse and 35 motorcycles on wet roads into the District, across Rock Creek Park and down Wisconsin Avenue.

From atop a hill, the cruisers — with wipers on and police lights running — looked like a string of sparkling, colorful jewels.

On the way to the cemetery, the procession passed 2nd District headquarters in upper Northwest. Smith’s motorbike was parked on the sidewalk, its windshield crossed in black tape. Pink carnations, white roses and yellow daffodils lay on the bike under a steady downpour.

A line of officers, the rain pelting their faces, stood behind the motorbike, saluting as the hearse drove by.

Few others braved the weather to witness the procession, but the officers stood at attention until the last car passed.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 14, 1997, PAGE B6

Buyer of Handgun Sought

Prince George’s County police are searching for a man who they believe purchased the handgun taken from Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., the off-duty D.C. police officer who was killed during a robbery in Forestville last month.

Police said Daryl Antjuan Walker, 24, whose last known address was in Capitol Heights, bought Smith’s police-issued handgun from one of the three men who have been arrested in the officer’s slaying. The pistol later was discovered in a mailbox in the District, but investigators want to question Walker about the transaction.

Police said Walker is wanted on warrants for armed robbery, distribution of drugs while armed and assaulting a corrections officer.

Over the last five years, he has been charged once with attempted murder and twice with first-degree murder. One of the slayings occurred when he was 17, and juvenile records on the case are sealed. He was acquitted in another slaying and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in the attempted murder case.

Police asked that anyone with information on his whereabouts call 301-735-1111. All calls remain confidential, and a reward has been offered.

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PARTIAL WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 27, 1997, PAGE J9

Heroism by City Public Safety Officers Honored

At this year’s event, chaired by retired police chief Maurice J. Cullinane, the medals were presented by Mayor Marion Barry (D), Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby, Fire Chief Otis J. Latin Sr. and Corrections Director Margaret A. Moore.

A crowd of 550 people packed into the ANA Hotel for what organizers said was the largest meritorious award luncheon in recent years.

But the luncheon quickly turned from a celebratory ceremony to a tear-tinged memorial service as awards were given posthumously to a corrections officer who was slain and three police officers who were killed — two of them recently.

Master Patrol Officer Brian T. Gibson, who was on routine patrol and had stopped at a red light at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW when he was shot several times by a man who had been ejected from a nearby nightclub, was awarded the gold medal. Oliver W. Smith Jr., who was forced to the ground outside his home in Forestville and executed when his assailants discovered he was an officer, was awarded the silver medal. Anthony W. Simms, who died of injuries he suffered when he was struck by a pick-up truck last year while stopping a speeding driver in the Ninth Street Tunnel, also was awarded a silver medal.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 13, 1997, PAGE B3

Family, Friends Mourn Law Officers Who Died

The tiny boy in the adult-size police hat tried to salute yesterday during the annual memorial service in Washington to honor area law enforcement officers. But the hat slid to the right, knocking his hand off his brow. The big police officer standing next to him put the hat in place, and 5-year-old Oliver Wendell Smith III stood tall, saluting until the end of taps.

“I want to be a police officer, just like my dad,” Oliver said afterward.

The first-grader likes to wear police hats, particularly the one his father, Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., wore when he worked for the D.C. police. Smith was gunned down outside his Forestville home in March as he returned from work. He died on the scene after three robbers took his wallet, badge and gun.

Yesterday, Oliver alternately wore the hats of his father’s close friend, Officer James W. Warren Jr., and his father’s supervisor, Sgt. Timothy Haselden, who both kept the boy company during the 90-minute tribute to the 59 area officers killed in the line of duty since 1980.

The officers were honored in a solemn ceremony outside D.C. police headquarters during National Police Week. D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby and Mayor Marion Barry each made brief remarks, but the focus of the ceremony was on the officers’ family members and friends, who stood in a long, quiet line waiting for the names to be read so they could place a white carnation on the edge of a fountain.

Among them was Secret Service Agent Donna Miller, who honored her friend Donald A. Bejcek, one of three agents killed in 1983 in an auto accident during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II.

“I think of him often,” Miller said. “This ceremony reminds me to work at good training, to try to stay in good shape, never to relax. This is a very dangerous job.”

Haselden, who helped Oliver adjust the slipping police hat, didn’t need to be reminded. He carries the funeral program for Smith in his hat.

“It’s my own personal memorial,” he said.

Warren, who spent time socially as well as professionally with his partner, Smith, has only to look at Oliver to be reminded of the danger of being a police officer, on or off duty. He said Oliver, who looks very much like his father, likes to talk about his dad and keeps his hat on his bureau.

“He understands what happened,” Warren said. “He told me, `Bad people took my daddy away, and he is never coming back.’ ”

At yesterday’s ceremony, an officer who died in 1989 was honored with those who died more recently. Library of Congress Officer Lou Cannon, president of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police, said D.C. Officer William Anthony Smith was killed off duty when he got into a confrontation with a drug dealer.

“It took all of this time, until this year, for the department to rule it was a line-of-duty death,” Cannon said.

He said the D.C. Corrections Department ruling that the death of Cpl. Amos Williams Jr., who was killed in January while off duty, was a line-of-duty death came too late for Williams to be included in yesterday’s ceremony. He said the death of D.C. Officer Robert Louis Johnson Jr., who was shot April 27 after being confronted by an irate motorist, occurred after the program was printed. He said both men will be part of next year’s ceremony.

Also receiving special attention yesterday were Commerce Department Special Agent Duane R. Christian, who died with Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown when their plane crashed last year; D.C. Officer Anthony Simms, who was struck by a speeding truck while on duty in May 1996; and D.C. Officer Brian T. Gibson, who was shot to death in his cruiser outside a nightclub in February.

Cannon told the small audience of police officers, families and passersby that the D.C. Council was side-stepping its job by not enacting a mandatory death sentence for those who kill police officers.

“The polls show the citizens of the District favor the death penalty for the murder of officers,” he said later. “If the council won’t act, I challenge them to leave it up to the voters, to hold a referendum. The people of the District of Columbia know what is right.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JUNE 24, 1997, PAGE D5

Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Slaying of Officer

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Jack B. Johnson announced yesterday that he will seek the death penalty for Antwaun Brown, 23, who is charged with first-degree murder in the robbery and execution-style slaying of D.C. police Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr.

Johnson also said he will seek life sentences, without possibility of parole, for Anthony Allen Crawley and Donovan Shawn Strickland, who also are charged in the killing.

Authorities said Smith was returning from work on Feb. 26 when the trio confronted him just before 3 a.m. in the parking lot of the Suitland apartment complex where he lived with his wife and young son.

Smith was in plain clothes when he was robbed of his wallet, service weapon and badge and then shot in the head.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 16, 1997, PAGE D3

Ceremony Recalls Officers Killed on Duty

Special tribute was paid yesterday during the sixth anniversary observance of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to five area police officers who were slain in the last 12 months.

Honored, along with their families, were D.C. Officers Brian T. Gibson, Oliver W. Smith Jr. and Robert T. Johnson Jr., Virginia State Trooper Gregory P. Fleenor and Baltimore Lt. Owen E. Sweeney Jr.

“Unlike other soldiers whom we have memorialized with national monuments, there is no end in sight to the war fought by our peace officers,” said Craig Floyd, the memorial’s chairman. He noted a 37 percent increase in the number of officers killed this year compared with the same period a year ago.

The memorial, in the 400 block of E Street NW, honors the memory of more than 14,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 6, 1998, PAGE E1

Grieving Widow’s Outburst Jolts Pr. George’s Courtroom; She Confronts Suspect, Wails, `You Killed My Husband!’

From her second-row seat in the Upper Marlboro courtroom, Chandra Smith whimpered softly yesterday as a prosecutor told jurors how her husband, an off-duty D.C. police officer, had pleaded for his life before he was shot three times in the head during a robbery last year.

The young widow’s whimpers turned into sobs as the Prince George’s County prosecutor told the jury that her husband had pleaded: “Please don’t shoot me. I have a wife and a kid.” Then she bolted from her seat and leaned into the well of the courtroom to confront defendant Donovan Shawn Strickland. “You killed my husband! You killed my husband!” she wailed. “Look at me.”

His gaze caught hers, and as her parents and a bailiff rushed to her, Smith, 29, howled through her tears: “My son has no father! My son has no father!”

The jolting display of anger and grief occurred barely two minutes into the opening statements at Strickland’s murder trial. Strickland, 29, and two others were charged with killing Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. on Feb. 26 in the parking lot of his Forestville apartment building as the officer, in plain clothes, was returning home from work.

Prosecutors allege that the three men were robbing Smith when one of the assailants opened Smith’s wallet and discovered that he was a D.C. police officer. They forced him to the pavement and fired three bullets into the back of his head, prosecutors said.

Anthony Allen Crawley, 39, pleaded guilty to felony murder in September and is awaiting sentencing. Alleged triggerman Antwan Delonta Brown, 24, of Landover, is scheduled to go on trial in March.

Yesterday, after the outburst from the grief-stricken Smith, her parents and the bailiff gently but firmly grabbed her and led her outside the courtroom into a hallway. The defendant dropped his head onto the defense table.

From inside the courtroom, Smith could still be heard sobbing: “He killed my husband! He killed my husband!”

The spasm of grief came as Assistant State’s Attorney William M. Manico tried to make his opening statement, and it left many in the packed courtroom in stunned silence.

Strickland’s attorney, Michael Blumenthal, asked Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. for a mistrial on the grounds that the outburst prejudiced jurors against his client.

Sothoron cleared the courtroom of everyone except the attorneys involved in the case and courtroom workers. He heard from the attorneys, then questioned each of the jurors individually.

After about 90 minutes, Sothoron reopened the courtroom and announced that based on his reading of case law, he was denying the motion for a mistrial. Sothoron said all the jurors had assured him “without hesitation” that Smith’s display “The disruption . . . does not interfere with Mr. Strickland’s right to a fair and impartial trial.”

— Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. would not affect their ability to be impartial.

Sothoron said that displays of emotion in courtrooms are not unusual and that such scenes do not necessarily entitle a defendant to a mistrial.

“I feel that the disruption in this case does not interfere with Mr. Strickland’s right to a fair and impartial trial,” Sothoron said. However, the judge excluded Chandra Smith from the courtroom. As a potential prosecution witness, she was not supposed to be in the courtroom yesterday.

In his interrupted opening statement, and in his unimpeded second opening statement, Manico said Strickland admitted to police that he held the gun on Smith while Crawley rifled the officer’s pockets.

When Crawley found Smith’s badge and police gun, Brown took the gun Strickland was holding, pressed it against the back of Smith’s head and shot the officer three times, Manico said.

Strickland can be found guilty of murder in a slaying that occurred during a felony, in this case armed robbery that he took part in, Manico said. Strickland would face life in prison if convicted of felony murder.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Blumenthal acknowledged that Strickland was guilty of robbery with a deadly weapon and of using a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence — acts for which he could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison.

But Blumenthal argued that Brown, not Strickland, should be held accountable for Smith’s slaying.

“I ask you to return a verdict that requires Donnie Strickland to answer for what Donnie Strickland did,” Blumenthal said. “Leave for another day, another jury, and the actions of Antwan Brown.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 7, 1998, PAGE B4

Suspect Describes Slaying Of Off-Duty D.C. Officer; Victim Shot When Badge Was Found, He Says

Off-duty D.C. police officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. was shot to death moments after Donovan Shawn Strickland found Smith’s badge while robbing him, one of Strickland’s two co-defendants testified yesterday.

Anthony Allen Crawley, 39, testified that Strickland cried out, “Oh {expletive}, cuz, the police!” as he rifled through Smith’s pockets on Feb. 26. “Cuz” is slang for a companion.

Strickland then handed the gun he was aiming at Smith to Antwan Delonta Brown, the accused triggerman, Crawley testified. Crawley said he heard gunshots as he and Strickland walked away.

Crawley’s testimony, on the second day of Strickland’s trial, marked the first time that a witness has said publicly that Smith was killed shortly after he was identified as a police officer.

Crawley was called to testify yesterday by the defense, which is seeking to persuade the jury that the robbery had been completed — and thus Strickland’s involvement was finished — at the time that Smith was killed.

Strickland is charged with felony murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and other crimes in the slaying of Smith, who was killed in the parking lot of the Forestville apartment complex where he lived.

The prosecution is trying to convict Strickland under a provision of Maryland law that anyone found to have committed a robbery that resulted in a slaying can also be found guilty of murder. Strickland faces a sentence of life in prison without parole if he is convicted of felony murder.

Crawley pleaded guilty to felony murder in September and is awaiting sentencing.

Strickland’s attorney, Michael Blumenthal, asked Crawley whether he knew Nookie — Brown’s nickname — was going to shoot Smith. Crawley shook his head and said, “I had no idea.”

Brown, 24, is scheduled to go on trial in March.

According to testimony, Brown, Strickland and Crawley decided to rob Smith when they saw him pull into a gas station. Crawley testified that he and his companions followed Smith in Brown’s burgundy Oldsmobile. The idea to commit a robbery was hatched by Brown, who also provided the murder weapon, Crawley testified.

The defense is expected to close its case by having Strickland take the stand today.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 8, 1998, PAGE D4

Divided Md. Jury Weighs Verdict in Officer’s Killing

A Prince George’s County jury, declaring itself evenly split on a murder charge, will resume deliberations this morning in the trial of a man charged in the robbery and homicide of an off-duty D.C. police officer in the parking lot of the Forestville apartment where the officer lived with his wife and 5-year-old son.

The jury deliberated for four hours yesterday after hearing closing arguments and testimony from the defendant, Donovan Shawn Strickland that Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., the slain off-duty officer, “died for no good reason.”

“It was senseless,” Strickland testified, teary-eyed. “It didn’t have to happen.”

Strickland is charged with felony murder, armed robbery and use of a handgun in commission of a felony in connection with the shooting death Feb. 26. If convicted on the first charge, Strickland could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is one of three defendants in the case.

Under the law, anyone involved in committing a felony, such as armed robbery, may also be convicted of a murder that occurred during commission of the felony. A defendant may also be found guilty of felony murder if he tried to escape the “immediate scene” of a robbery that results in a murder.

Strickland has acknowledged committing an armed robbery and a weapons violation, but he insists he had nothing to do with the slaying. The armed robbery and gun charge each carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

A note the jury handed the judge at 6 p.m. yesterday indicated that at least one juror was persuaded by Strickland’s defense. The note asked Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. to give the legal definition of “immediate scene” and “escape.” Sothoron told the jury there is no legal definition for those terms and advised them to use their common sense.

About 7:15 p.m., the jury sent Sothoron another note. Speaking to the defense attorney and prosecutor in open court, Sothoron said the note said the jurors were evenly split on the felony murder charge. Sothoron then released the jury for the night.

Earlier yesterday, Strickland, 29, admitted that he had held a gun to Smith, made him lie face-down on the ground, and robbed him of his wallet and badge. Smith, 28, was shot at point-blank range three times in the back of the head.

Strickland blamed one of his two co-defendants, Antwan Delonta Brown, 24, the accused trigger man, for Smith’s shooting. Brown is scheduled to go on trial in March. He faces the death penalty. The other co-defendant, Anthony Allen Crawley, 39, pleaded guilty in September to felony murder and is awaiting sentencing.

Strickland, in the third day of the trial, testified for one hour and 15 minutes, which included about 20 minutes of cross-examination by Assistant State’s Attorney William M. Manico.

After robbing Smith, Strickland testified, he and Crawley quietly and quickly walked away, trying to escape. Strickland testified that he panicked after realizing he had robbed a police officer.

As he rounded the corner of a building, Strickland testified, he ran into Brown, who asked for the gun. “I gave it to him because it was his,” Strickland testified. “I told him, `It’s a cop. Let’s go.’ I was scared.”

After giving Brown the gun, Strickland testified, he went to the getaway car, which Brown had just left. Strickland testified that he expected Brown to follow him. Instead, Strickland testified, Brown continued in the other direction, toward Smith.

He got into the car and heard three gunshots, Strickland testified. “I just dropped my head and prayed he didn’t shoot the victim.”

Strickland said that when he asked Brown why he shot the victim, Brown said, “{Expletive} him.” Strickland testified that Brown laughed and joked about the shooting as they were leaving in the car.

In his cross-examination, prosecutor Manico pointed out several discrepancies between Strickland’s testimony and the statement he gave after his arrest in a question-and-answer session with Prince George’s County homicide detective Robert Simpson.

In the statement, Strickland said Brown came up to him, ordered him to thoroughly search Smith, and then took the gun from him.

“That puts him right there at the scene {of the robbery},” Manico said.

Strickland maintained he never read his answers, which Simpson wrote down, before he initialed them because he was too upset over Smith’s death.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 8, 1998, PAGE D1

A Grieving Father’s Pain And Pride

The day of the funeral, it rained. Oliver Smith Sr. remembers all the cops standing outside, scorning the weather, saluting the casket of their street-slain comrade, who happened to be Oliver’s son. The father can’t forget that. Among officers of the law, Oliver said, “there’s just such a bond.”

The father was sitting, with his wife and one of his two daughters, in the cafeteria of the Prince George’s County courthouse in Upper Marlboro. Proceedings were recessed for lunch. When they resumed upstairs, the family would be back in the courtroom, mere feet from one of the three men charged with the slaying of Oliver W. Smith Jr.

That night, last year, the son was in civvies, in the parking lot of his Forestville apartment. Evidently, the bad guys didn’t know they’d picked a cop to roll. After these heroes rifled his clothes and found his badge — No. 3361 — one of them put a Smith & Wesson to Oliver Jr.’s skull and fired thrice, according to two of the accused, who blame the third.

His were “contact” wounds, a clinician meaning the .32’s barrel was kissing its target as the gun was fired. Maybe Oliver would’ve been snuffed anyway, cop or no, but you have to wonder if in fact it wasn’t a hate crime, the dispatch of someone because he was a despised type.

“I have to get rid of the rage,” the father said. Right now, it’s in one of his fingers. The doctors tell him that, with stress, muscles sometimes grab your neck vertebrae and that you go numb physically, as you have emotionally.

Oliver Jr., who was 28 when executed, belonged to a troubled force, Washington’s, the headline-a-day department, most of them bad. An infuriating aspect of a scandal is that the people doing the scandalous sully the reputations of colleagues who aren’t. Even as the New Republic purports this week to tell the country about “the lawless lawmen of our nation’s capital,” as it touts their “Badge of Dishonor,” there are cops working beats, navigating risk and, every so often, dying because they are who they are, cops. There aren’t many jobs where the next meeting might kill you.

“And we give these guys a hard time,” the father said, incredulous.

He thinks the world of Larry Soulsby, the disgraced former chief. There is no one more loyal, the father said. Came to the house in Cheverly after Oliver Jr. died. So many city cops did.

“I had to literally tell them to get out of my house and go home to their families,” Oliver the father said. Their astounding concern, he said, “dispelled the personal stereotypes about these guys being a bunch of thugs.”

He had possessed the stereotypes. He hadn’t embraced the idea, sprung suddenly, of the son wearing city blue. Oliver Jr. had come out of Bowie State with an accounting degree a few years back. Be a cop? For the Metropolitan Police Department?

“I think you’re aware of scandals, of how they push people through the academy . . . and {of} the areas he’d be working in,” the father said. But Oliver was trained well. And he loved the job.

Ignoring his lunch of bagel and coffee, the father summoned a flood of memories, the good ones, that is. About how Oliver had to arrest Santa Claus because Santa was drunk and disorderly. The father laughs through that tale. About how the son had to work the case at the zoo where the lion ate that woman. About how a police dog turned on Oliver once, noshing his arm, unable to tell a good guy from a bad. And, especially, how they seemed to like his son in 2D.

That’s the 2nd District, his son’s turf, mostly Georgetown.

“I do know he’s changed the lives of a lot of people,” the father said. He’s gone to 2D and been told by average folk what Oliver Jr. meant to them. “It blew me away: My little boy?” He stopped, corrected himself. Junior wasn’t a junior when he died. Being a cop had matured him, given him confidence. “He was a man,” the father said. Why, his peers called him Smitty, just as peers of the father do.

In life, the father, 49, is a systems consultant for Lucent Technologies. But this has become another life, this pursuit of justice and closure. On Monday, his son’s widow stood up in court and screamed at the defendant, right in front of the jury. Called him a killer. The father was there, saw it, and envied his daughter-in-law. He wishes he could be openly emotional. But men don’t do that, he said, although he nearly did as he spoke during lunch. He dueled the tears, ferociously, making you want to hug him and say: Let go. It’s okay.

“The hard part today,” he said, “was looking at the bullets that someone dug out of my son’s head.” They were evidence. And the gun, too. And, of course, he had to look at the defendant, Donovan Shawn Strickland, who admitted on the stand yesterday that he was involved in the robbery but said he was not the shooter.

Odd, though. The father who had reservations about his son’s life on the street no longer does.

“It’s something he wanted to do, something he believed in, and he died for it,” he said. “I don’t know why.” He’d love an answer to that one, but there probably isn’t one that makes sense, not a short one anyway. Even without one, though, the father is proud of the son, the police officer.

“I wave to every cop I see,” the father said. “They think I’m crazy. But they’re in our prayers constantly.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED JANUARY 9, 1998, PAGE B1

Md Jury Deadlocks on Murder Charge In Slaying of Off-Duty District Officer

A Prince George’s County jury declared itself “hopelessly deadlocked” yesterday on a murder charge against a man on trial in the slaying of an off-duty D.C. police officer but convicted him of armed robbery and another crime.

After questioning the jury foreman, Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. declared a hung jury on the felony murder count against Donovan Shawn Strickland, 29, in the slaying of Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., 28, in February.

Sothoron, over defense objections, then accepted a partial verdict from the jury on the two other counts Strickland faced.

The jury, which deliberated for more than nine hours over two days, found Strickland guilty of armed robbery and the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony. Prosecutors said they will retry Strickland on the murder charge.

“I’m very disappointed,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Jack B. Johnson said. “We will aggressively prosecute the felony murder charge again. Strickland deserves to be convicted of this heinous crime.”

Strickland was one of three men accused of robbing Smith, but he did not shoot him. Under Maryland law, however, anyone involved in committing a felony, such as armed robbery, may also be convicted of a murder that occurred during the crime. A defendant may also be convicted of felony murder if he tried to escape the “immediate scene” of a robbery that results in murder.

Strickland could have been sentenced to life in prison without parole if he had been convicted of felony murder. He can be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison on each of the two charges of which he was convicted.

“Obviously, we’re pleased,” defense attorney Michael Blumenthal said. “I don’t think there was an attorney within 300 miles of here who didn’t think it would be a guilty verdict within 10 minutes.”

Jury foreman Victo Laczo said the final vote on the murder charge was 7 to 5 for conviction. The jurors who voted for acquittal said the robbery was separate from the shooting, Laczo said.

Taking the stand in his own defense, Strickland had tearfully described Smith’s slaying as “senseless.”

“He died for no good reason,” Strickland testified.

On the stand, he admitted that he and two co-defendants robbed Smith on Feb. 26 in the parking lot of the Forestville apartment complex where the young officer lived with his wife and two children.

In his testimony, he blamed co-defendant Antwan Delonta Brown, 24, for the slaying.

Strickland testified that he held a gun on Smith, made him lie face down on the ground, and took his wallet and badge. Strickland testified that he left Smith unharmed on the ground and as he rounded the corner of a building, ran into co-defendant Brown, the accused triggerman. When Brown asked for his gun back, he gave it to him, Strickland testified.

Strickland testified that he got into the getaway car, then heard three gunshots. Smith was shot three times in the back of the head.

Blumenthal argued that Strickland should not be held accountable for Brown’s actions. Brown is to go on trial in March. Anthony Allen Crawley, 39, pleaded guilty to felony murder in September and awaits sentencing.

At the trial’s outset, Chandra Smith, the victim’s widow, bolted from her seat, leaned over a wooden barrier and screamed at Strickland, “You killed my husband! You killed my husband!” She was escorted out and banned from the courtroom for the rest of the trial.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 4, 1998, PAGE B1

Man Pleads Guilty in Officer’s Slaying; After 1st Jury Deadlocked, Defendant Gets Life in Md. Case

On the day he was to be retried on charges of killing an off-duty D.C. police officer, a District man pleaded guilty yesterday to felony murder and was sentenced to life in prison after the father and widow of his victim described their continuing heartache.

Donovan Shawn Strickland, 30, had previously escaped conviction on the murder charge after a Prince George’s County jury deadlocked on whether he should be held responsible for the 1997 slaying of Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. The officer was shot to death during a robbery in the parking lot of a Forestville apartment complex.

Strickland was one of three men arrested in the robbery. Unless his sentence for murder is reduced, he will have to spend at least 15 years in prison before he would be eligible for parole, Prince George’s County prosecutors said. He also has been sentenced to 20 years for a handgun violation based on a verdict from the first jury, and that time is to run concurrently with the murder sentence.

During his first trial, Strickland testified that he held a gun to Smith’s head, made the officer lie face down on the ground and robbed him of his wallet and police badge. Strickland testified that he did not shoot Smith and did not intend for the officer to get hurt. He testified that he ran away and gave his gun to the accused triggerman, Antwan Delonta Brown, 24, and heard gunshots.

Smith, 28, was shot three times in the back of the head.

Under the law, someone who commits a felony, such as a robbery, that results in a murder can be found guilty of felony murder.

After Strickland’s plea, Oliver Smith Sr., the slain officer’s father, and Chandra Smith, the officer’s widow, addressed Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. at the judge’s invitation.

Strickland “was at a crossroads when he put a gun to my son’s head and made him lie down,” Smith said. “He made a decision at that point.”

Smith turned directly toward Strickland sitting at the defense table. Strickland turned in his seat and met Smith’s gaze.

“Think about the lives of your children, my grandson, and how this will impact them,” Smith said. “When I look into the eyes of your mother, {I wonder}, who’s the victim? When I look into the eyes of my daughter-in-law and grandson, who’s the victim?”

During Strickland’s trial, Chandra Smith bolted from her courtroom seat and tried to rush Strickland, wailing, “You killed my husband!”

Yesterday, a composed Chandra Smith told Sothoron: “This gentleman here has shattered my life. He’s also ruined the life of my son.”

She said her 6-year-old son asks sometimes whether Strickland will hurt him again or come after him.

Strickland’s mother, Florita Strickland, pleaded with Sothoron to be lenient with her son. She said his addiction to drugs compelled him to commit crimes to feed his habit.

“Donnie is compassionate. He’s a good person who just got caught up in the streets,” she said as she dabbed at tears in her eyes.

When it was his turn to speak, Strickland turned toward the Smith family and said he was sorry for the death of Oliver Smith Jr.

Looking at Oliver Smith Sr., he said, “I just want you to know I had nothing to do with your son dying.”

Strickland said he is in the same jail unit as Brown, who he said mocks him. “He sits there laughing at my face, pointing his finger at me every day,” Strickland said.

Brown, who is scheduled to go on trial March 23, could face the death penalty. The other co-defendant, Anthony Allen Crawley, 39, pleaded guilty in September to felony murder and is awaiting sentencing. He is expected to receive a sentence of life in prison with all but 35 years suspended, prosecutors said.

If Strickland had been convicted at trial, he could have been sentenced to life without parole, defense attorney Michael Blumenthal said.

After Strickland was sentenced, Oliver Smith Sr. said: “I believe justice was served. The decisions made today will never bring back my son, but maybe someone else will be a little safer.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 23, 1998, PAGE B3

Trial to Begin in Police Officer’s Slaying

A 24-year-old Landover man is set to go on trial today in Prince George’s County Circuit Court in the slaying of an off-duty D.C. police officer last year.

Antwan Delonta Brown is charged with the Feb. 26, 1997, slaying of D.C. police officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. Smith was shot three times in the head in the parking lot of his apartment complex in the 4400 block of Rena Road in Forestville.

Smith, 28, was killed during a robbery after his assailants found his police badge, according to previous court testimony. Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Jack B. Johnson is seeking a death sentence for Brown, the alleged triggerman. Two of Brown’s co-defendants already have pleaded guilty.

On March 3, Donovan Shawn Strickland, 30, pleaded guilty to felony murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Strickland pleaded guilty the day his retrial was to begin; his first trial ended in a hung jury. The other codefendant, Anthony Allen Crawley, 39, pleaded guilty to felony murder in September and is awaiting sentencing. Prosecutors said he is expected to be sentenced to life in prison, with all but 35 years suspended.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 25, 1998, PAGE B4

Trial Opens for 3rd Man In D.C. Officer’s Slaying; Defendant Fired Gun, Prosecutor Says

A Landover man pressed the barrel of his gun to the back of the head of an off-duty D.C. police officer on Feb. 26 last year and fired three times, a Prince George’s County prosecutor said yesterday at the start of the man’s capital murder trial.

Antwaun Delonte Brown gunned down Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. in the parking lot of Smith’s Forestville apartment complex during a robbery, Assistant State’s Attorney William M. Manico told the Circuit Court jury. Brown and two fellow bandits, who had been drinking before the slaying, got away with $120, which they split, Manico said.

Brown has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney said he was being made a scapegoat by his co-defendants.

However, Manico termed the evidence “very overwhelming.” He said it includes the murder weapon, a revolver that belonged to Brown, and the defendant’s statements. Initially, Brown denied having any involvement but eventually admitted that he drove the getaway car and supplied the gun, Manico said. He said Brown told police that he held the gun but that it went off accidentally.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Jack B. Johnson is seeking the death penalty for Brown, 24, who is charged with first-degree murder and felony murder.

Two co-defendants, Donovan Shawn Strickland, 30, and Anthony Allen Crawley, 39, have pleaded guilty to felony murder, a slaying committed during a robbery. They have told investigators that all three robbed Smith and that Brown shot the victim after learning he was a police officer.

Brown’s attorney, Leonard Long, told jurors that the evidence “will not show beyond a reasonable doubt” that Brown robbed and killed Smith, 28.

Long said that Strickland and Crawley were good friends with each other but not with Brown. He suggested that the co-defendants conspired against Brown to save themselves, and the police “bought {their} version hook, line and sinker.”

“Mr. Brown found himself in very bad company that night: Strickland and Crawley,” Long said.

Smith, who was married and had a 5-year-old son, was slain about 2:30 a.m. as he returned home after completing his shift at the 2nd Police District in Northwest Washington.

Strickland’s felony murder trial in January ended in a hung jury; he pleaded guilty this month on the day his retrial was to begin.

In his first trial, Strickland testified that he, Crawley and Brown decided to rob Smith and followed him into the parking lot in Brown’s car. Strickland testified that he held Brown’s gun to Smith’s head and forced him to lie face-down, at which point he and Crawley took the victim’s wallet, gun and badge.

Strickland testified that he ran away and that Brown asked for the gun back. Moments later, Strickland testified, he heard gunshots.

This month, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr., who is presiding over Brown’s trial, sentenced Strickland to life in prison. He will have to serve at least 15 years before he can be paroled.

Crawley is awaiting sentencing. He is expected to receive a sentence of life in prison with all but 35 years suspended, prosecutors said.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MARCH 28, 1998, PAGE B7

No Verdict in Slaying of Officer

A Prince George’s County jury deliberated eight hours yesterday but failed to reach a verdict in the case against a Landover man accused of firing three shots into the head of an off-duty D.C. police officer during a robbery last year.

The jury will resume deliberations Monday. Antwaun Delonte Brown, 24, could be sentenced to death if convicted of first-degree murder in the Feb. 26 slaying of officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. Prosecutors say Smith was on his way home from work when he was robbed outside his Forestville apartment. Brown allegedly killed him after he realized he was a police officer.

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED APRIL 1, 1998, PAGE B5

 Mistrial in Slaying of Off-Duty Officer

A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge yesterday declared a mistrial in the capital murder trial of a man charged with killing an off-duty D.C. police officer last year. Eleven jurors who voted to convict were unable to sway one juror who held out for acquittal, attorneys said.

After a three-day trial, the jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than 21 hours during three days. But jurors were able to reach unanimous verdicts on just two of eight charges against Antwaun Delonte Brown, 24, the accused triggerman in the February 1997 slaying of Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., 28. The judge refused to accept the partial verdict.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Jack B. Johnson said he was frustrated by the mistrial but vowed Brown would be retried. Johnson is seeking the death penalty for Brown, who is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, armed robbery and other charges.

“The evidence is so overwhelming. I just don’t see how {the jurors} didn’t come back with the verdict we’d hoped for,” Johnson said.

About 5:30 p.m. yesterday, Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. told the jurors that he would not accept a partial verdict on the two lesser counts the jury had agreed on. To accept a verdict on one of those charges — the use of a handgun in commission of a crime of violence — without verdicts on the other charges, would be “completely inconsistent” with his jury instructions, Sothoron said. Jurors also agreed to convict Brown of conspiracy to commit robbery.

Just before noon yesterday, a female juror sent Sothoron a note saying she felt “abused,” “harassed” and “disrespected” by the other jurors, who were trying to get her to agree to convict Brown, attorneys said. The woman asked in the note to be excused.

Sothoron instead instructed the jurors that they had a duty to do everything they could to reach verdicts.

Smith was robbed and killed in the parking lot of the Forestville apartment complex where he lived with his wife and their 5-year-old son.

Anthony Allen Crawley, one of Brown’s two co-defendants, testified that Brown fired three shots into the back of Smith’s head after one of his accomplices found Smith’s badge and police gun as the assailants robbed him of $120.

Prosecutors also presented as evidence the murder weapon, a revolver recovered from Brown’s car. Brown’s mother testified the weapon was his, and a firearms examination showed the slugs recovered from Smith’s body came from that gun, according to testimony.

Brown’s co-defendants, Crawley, 39, and Donovan Shawn Strickland, 30, have pleaded guilty to felony murder, a slaying committed during a robbery.

After he declared a mistrial, Sothoron sternly urged jurors not to speak to anyone about their deliberations, saying that the case would probably be retried and that he didn’t want potential jurors to read their comments. Jurors declined to comment.

Sothoron did not immediately set a new trial date.

Oliver Smith Sr., the victim’s father, attended every day of the trial.

“I’m very disappointed,” Smith said. “We had 11 people who found this man guilty, and one who didn’t. What does it take?”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED OCTOBER 2, 1998, PAGE B5

Police Pack Md. Court As Slaying Trial Ends; Man Accused of Killing D.C. Officer

Dozens of uniformed District of Columbia police officers, including Chief Charles H. Ramsey and most of his top officials, packed an Upper Marlboro courtroom yesterday for the closing arguments in the capital retrial of a man accused of killing an off-duty D.C. police officer in Forestville last year.

Sitting somberly in rows of wooden pew-like benches, the officers cast a dramatic backdrop for the climax of the four-day retrial of Antwaun Delonte Brown, who is charged with the Feb. 26, 1997, execution-style slaying of Officer Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., 28.

The first trial for Brown, 25, ended with a hung jury in March.

Brown’s attorney used the heavy police presence in the courtroom to argue against the credibility of the officers who testified in the trial.

Ramsey sat next to Oliver Smith Sr., the slain officer’s father, throughout yesterday’s testimony and closing arguments, about five hours in all.

During the previous three trials in the case, no D.C. officers appeared in court on most days.

“I think it’s important we show support for our officers who have been killed,” Ramsey said, adding that the Smiths are part of an extended police family. “We have to support each other in times of need and trouble.”

Jury deliberations will begin Monday.

Brown is accused of firing three shots into the back of Smith’s head during an early-morning robbery in the parking lot of the Forestville apartment complex where Smith lived with his wife and their young son. Witnesses testified that Smith was killed even though he told his killer he had a wife and child and pleaded for his life.

According to testimony presented by prosecutors during the trial, Brown and two other men robbed Smith in the early morning hours as the young officer returned home from work.

Anthony Allen Crawley, 40, and Donovan Shawn Strickland, 41, made Smith lie face down on the ground as Strickland held him at gunpoint, according to testimony. Crawley and Strickland have both pleaded guilty to felony murder — a slaying committed during a robbery.

Crawley, who also testified at Brown’s first trial, testified this week that after he and Strickland rifled Smith’s pockets and found his badge and gun, Brown took the handgun away from Strickland, put it to the back of Smith’s head and fired. Crawley testified he heard the first shot as he and Strickland walked away, and turned and saw Brown fire a second shot into Smith.

Police recovered a handgun from one of Brown’s cars, and a firearms examiner testified that test firings proved it was the weapon used to kill Smith.

Brown did not testify.

His attorney, Leonard Long, launched into an attack on police investigators at the outset of his closing argument.

Rising from the defense table, Long said, “True and blue. What’s true and blue?”

Long turned and pointed to the scores of officers sitting in the courtroom gallery. “That’s true and blue. That’s the good part; we don’t begrudge it.”

Long strode to the witness chair, and as he sat in it, continued in a booming voice, “These officers {who testified in the case} took the stand, swore to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth . . . and misled you.”

The defense attorney argued that even though Brown drove Strickland and Crawley to and away from the scene of the robbery, he did not know they were planning a robbery.

In his rebuttal, Assistant State’s Attorney William M. Manico ridiculed the idea that Brown unwittingly served as a getaway driver for Strickland and Crawley.

The prosecutor said Long was not raising reasonable doubts, but “fanciful doubts.”

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WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE DATED MAY 25, 2000, PAGE M16

Etching a Tribute to Victims of Violence

A father and his two young children were the first to see it up close.

As hundreds of relatives of Marylanders who had been killed during the last 30 years mingled inside a ballroom of the Greenbelt Marriott Hotel last month, the man and his two kids gravitated toward the simple, stark memorial in a nearby hallway: A dozen clear glass panels carved with the names of nearly 800 homicide victims.

Resting against slats of black-painted wood, the memorial bore a striking resemblance to a scaled-down version of the wall dedicated to American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.

The eyes of the children lit up when they found their mother’s name. Their father stepped in close, raised his hand, ran it lightly across the name of his fallen love, and wept.

Oliver Smith Sr. watched the reaction to his handiwork and just about lost it on the spot. A very tough guy who is built like a linebacker, Smith struggled to maintain his composure.

Smith had an idea how the man felt. His son, Oliver Wendell Smith Jr., a D.C. police officer, was shot to death in the parking lot of his Forestville apartment complex in February 1997. Smith Jr., who was coming home early in the morning from his shift, was killed during a robbery, after the bandits discovered his police badge.

When Oliver Smith Sr. carved his own son’s name into the memorial, it was an act of remembrance but also another step in a searing journey from enraged violent crime victim to stalwart victims’ rights advocate.

Since he took a glass-carving class last fall at Meredith Glass Arts Center in Silver Spring and got the idea for the tribute, Smith has toiled weekends and weeknights on the project, painstakingly transferring the names of the dead from a computer printout to the glass and then carefully carving each name into sharp relief on 10- by-14-inch panes of glass.

Smith, 51, has sunk countless hours and several hundred of his own dollars into the memorial. Most importantly, the memorial–and Smith’s work in Prince George’s County on behalf of other victims of violent crime–has helped him to let go of his fury before it destroyed him.

“I don’t like to hate anybody,” Smith said. “I’m a firm believer in forgiveness. A lot of people don’t understand the idea of forgiving the person but not condoning the act. That’s where I’ve arrived.”

Creating the memorial has been an enormous catharsis for Smith, said Jane Meredith, who taught the glass-carving class that sparked Smith’s idea in October and since has become friends with him.

“When something awful happens in your life, it creates a tremendous amount of energy that has to go somewhere,” Meredith said. “Either you find a useful way to direct it, or it eats you up.”

The awful event occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 1997. Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. had finished his work shift as a D.C. police officer and had driven into the parking lot of the Forestville apartment complex where he lived with his wife and their young son.

Smith, who was off duty and not in uniform, was confronted by three bandits, one of whom was armed with a handgun. The bandits made Smith lie on the ground and rifled his pockets; after one of them found Smith’s police gun and badge, the gunman, Antwaun Delonte Brown, fired three shots into Smith’s head.

In 1998, in Prince George’s Circuit Court, a jury convicted Brown of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Brown’s two codefendants, who both pleaded guilty to first- degree felony murder charges, were sentenced to life in prison. One of Brown’s codefendants, Donovan Strickland, went through a trial, which ended in a hung jury, before he pleaded guilty. Smith Sr. attended every day of the trial, seeking justice for his son.

It exacted a terrible toll. Smith experienced terrible back and neck pain and lost much of the feeling in his right hand. He went to a doctor, who told him that a set of muscles surrounding his neck had become so tight from stress that they had dislocated two of his vertebrae. The doctor had another of his patients call Smith. The patient, a woman who, like Smith, had lost a son to murder, talked to Smith about forgiveness, telling him that holding on to the anger would only hurt him.

Then a simple but remarkable thing happened. In the hallway of the Upper Marlboro courthouse, during a break in Strickland’s trial, Smith and the father of Donovan Strickland began talking. Strickland’s father apologized for the actions of his son, then broke down and started crying. In the next moment, Smith found himself holding the elder Strickland, consoling the father of a man who had helped kill his son.

Smith told Donovan Strickland’s father and mother that he realized he had lost a son, but so had they, and that there was nothing for them to apologize for.

By the time the last defendant had been sentenced, in October 1998, Smith and his wife, Cynthia, had attended several meetings of COPS, Concerns of Police Survivors, a support group for relatives and friends of police officers killed in the line of duty. Smith became friends with Shirley Gibson, the wife of D.C. police officer Brian T. Gibson Jr., who was shot to death about two weeks before Oliver Wendell Smith Jr. was slain.

Smith helped found a group chapter in Prince George’s, and began working with the Stephanie Roper Foundation, an Upper Marlboro victims’ rights organization named after a girl slain in Prince George’s County. Smith volunteered, accompanying crime victims and relatives of murder victims to court hearings, giving them his support and telling them what they could expect in court.

At the courthouse, Smith met Paul Oliver, 70, a retired D.C. police officer who also volunteers helping crime victims. Oliver has endured more than his share of violent crime: His stepson, Brian Haber, was killed in November 1997, when he was punched and fell on his head outside a Lanham sports bar. In addition to Haber’s death, Oliver has lost a brother, a brother-in-law and his stepson’s roommate to homicide. All were killed in Maryland.

Smith, who lives with his wife in Cheverly, continued to work full time for a District technology firm while volunteering, but he still had energy to spare. Last October, he took Meredith’s glass-carving class. A year and a half earlier, in May 1998, Smith had for the first time visited the law enforcement officer’s memorial in the District, which lists the names of slain officers from throughout the country.

While taking Meredith’s class, the idea came to him–why not do a memorial for Prince George’s homicide victims? During a meeting with officials from the Prince George’s state’s attorney’s office and crime advocates, Smith put out the idea and was encouraged to follow it through.

From the Maryland governor’s office of victims’ assistance, Smith obtained the names of 800 murder victims from Prince George’s, Howard, Talbot, Frederick, Howard and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City (the central region, as defined by the office). Smith expanded his idea to include the other jurisdictions.

Smith told Meredith about his idea and, despite his lack of experience as a glass carver, went to work in the basement area of Meredith’s glass shop. Meredith might have tried to persuade another novice to scale down the project. Not so with Smith. “When Oliver gets something in his head, it’s there,” she said. “Once the train gets moving, it’s not stopping.”

Working on the project has brought Smith closer to other survivors of violent crime and helped restore some of the faith he had lost in his fellow man.

When Paul Oliver heard about the project, he jumped in, volunteering his time and buying some of the materials. Oliver carved into the memorial the names of the four people who have been close to him who were slain. Others helped. Smith’s wife created the template for the names that were carved into the glass, printing them out from her computer. Glass Distributors in Bladensburg sold him glass at below the wholesale price, Smith said.

Meredith donated the use of her store’s work space, which is usually rented at an hourly rate, telling Smith, “We may not have a lot of money, but we have a lot of heart.” The gesture saved Smith hundreds of dollars, perhaps more.

Soon, the memorial will be mounted inside the Fran Barnes room (349M) in the Prince George’s courthouse. The room, named after a former investigator for the state’s attorney’s office who died last year, is used as a waiting area for prosecution witnesses.

Smith was touched by all the help he received for the project. “I guess there are still a lot of nice people in the world,” he said.

And he vowed to continue updating the memorial, adding names as survivors of homicide victims register with the governor’s victims’ assistance office. “As long as I’m alive and they keep sending in the names, I’ll keep doing this,” Smith said.

The memorial will be on display through next week at Meredith Glass Arts Center, 1115 East-West Hwy. in Silver Spring, 301-650- 8572.

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