Off-duty police detective dies after being struck with thrown object

… 18-year-veteran was celebrating on eve of his birthday; killed in argument reportedly over parking space …

By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

12:13 PM EDT, October 17, 2010

An off-duty Baltimore police detective, taking part in the Canton nightlife on the eve of his birthday Saturday, was killed after being struck in the head after an argument, police said. He would have turned 38 today.

Brian Stevenson, an 18-year veteran and married father of three, was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center not long after he was attacked in the 2800 block of Hudson St. at about 10 p.m.

Acting on witness descriptions, police located and detained several persons of interest, including the suspect. He had not been charged as of early Sunday morning.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III told reporters outside the hospital that the argument was “incredibly petty.”

“It’s an incredible tragedy for the family, for all of us,” said Bealefeld, who spoke with Stevenson’s family members along with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “The city’s losing … we’re losing a fantastic detective who works to make people safe in this city. It’s just senseless.”

Stevenson had gone out to have dinner with a longtime friend at the Canton restaurant Saute when an argument broke out in a parking lot, reportedly over a parking space. Crime scene technicians were processing evidence in the parking lot of a Mercy Medical Center eye care clinic.

Police said the suspect picked up an object — a rock or piece of concrete — and hurled it at Stevenson, striking him in the right temple and causing him to fall to the ground.

Stevenson lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The suspect and other “persons of interest” were located at a downtown club, police said.

“We’re confident that the culprit in this case will be charged before the day is over,” Bealefeld said.

Stevenson is the first city officer to be killed in an attack since January 9, 2007, when Officer Troy Lamont Chesley Sr. was fatally shot during a robbery while he was off-duty in Northwest Baltimore. Last month, Officer James Fowler died after losing control of his vehicle while driving to a training program in Pennsylvania.

Friends recalled Stevenson as a jovial man who was one of the department’s snappiest and unique dressers, pairing wild colors and patterns. Detective Thomas Jackson, a homicide investigator who worked with Stevenson in the Northeast District investigating shootings and robberies, said Stevenson was called “Smiley” because of his consistently upbeat mood.

As a detective, Jackson said, Stevenson was able to relate to those he interacted with in the streets. He grew up in the city and graduated from Dunbar High School, Jackson said.

“He loved doing his job, and he made sure his family was provided for,” said Detective Sandra Forsythe, who continued to bring baked goods to her former partner after she moved on to the homicide unit this year.

Stevenson was featured in a 1994 Baltimore Afro-American article about the first class of officers to graduate under the then-new police commissioner, Thomas Frazier. His mother beamed with pride when discussing her son.

“I think that it is wonderful because he’s doing something for society,” Sheila Dorsey told the Afro. “He has always been the type of person who would help other people in any way that he could. I know that he will be a good police officer, because he has the Lord on his side.”

Outside the emergency room entrance at Hopkins Bayview on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, dozens of officers in uniform or street clothes stood solemnly. Some were retired officers. There was little discussion. Deep into the morning, relatives of Stevenson continued to arrive.

As one group of officers walked to their cars to head home, they each shook hands.

A previous version of this story erroneously mentioned a restraining order. That reference did not refer to Brian Stevenson. The Sun regrets the error.

“Be safe,” they said to each other.

Jackson, who investigates city homicides, many over petty disputes and slights, said Stevenson’s death was one of the most senseless he could think of.

“All of them are terrible, but a parking spot?” Jackson said.

At the scene, neighbor Tricia Zebron said that the neighborhood is typically chaotic on weekends. She said parking spots are hard to come by – her car was parked in the same lot where Stevenson was attacked, though there are “private parking” signs posted.

“It’s a circus every weekend here,” she said.

There are a number of bars in the area, which is residential. Two of them offer valet service.

The driver of a limo parked outside the nearby Clutch sports lounge said he didn’t see or hear the commotion from the attack, but he noted that he was an off-duty Prince George’s County police officer. “It hurts,” he said of news that a fellow law enforcement officer had been killed.

A previous version of this story erroneously mentioned a restraining order. That reference did not refer to Brian Stevenson. The Sun regrets the error.

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

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