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P.G. warrant foul-up under scrutiny

Deputy served papers, didn’t take wanted man into custody

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Capitol Heights man with an open warrant out for his arrest was not taken into custody when he was served a peace order last month — the same day he is accused of fatally shooting his neighbor, the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

The sheriff's office has launched an internal investigation into why a sheriff's deputy did not arrest Deangelo Walker, 25, on Sept. 19 when the deputy served him the peace order, spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said.

That day, Mr. Walker fatally shot William Albert Nelson, 47, in an argument over money, Prince George's County police say.

According to court documents, a warrant was issued Aug. 30 for Mr. Walker in an unrelated case stemming from an incident in which Mr. Walker was accused of second-degree assault.

The peace order, which was filed by the victim of the assault, was issued at an 11:30 a.m. court hearing Sept. 19. The sheriff's office could not say what time it served the order.

But at about 9 p.m. that evening, police found Nelson in the middle of the road outside of Mr. Walker's home suffering from a gunshot wound. After executing a search warrant of Mr. Walker's home two days later, they found Nelson's debit card in Mr. Walker's bedroom, court documents state.

On Sept, 20, a day after Nelson was killed, Mr. Walker was arrested on the open warrant. He was charged Monday with the killing, and court records say that under interrogation Mr. Walker confessed to the crime.

The sheriff's office on Tuesday acknowledged the mishap but could not immediately provide an explanation.

"One of our deputies responded there and did not take him into custody," Ms. Taylor said. "We're going to open an internal investigation into why that occurred."

While the Sheriff's Office has reduced the number of outstanding warrants on file since December by nearly 6,000, the incident appears to be another black eye for an agency that has previously come under scrutiny for mishandling warrants.

Last year, under former Sheriff Michael Jackson, the agency was criticized when a felony warrant went unserved after being misfiled as a misdemeanor. The subject of the warrant, Marcus Shipman, fatally shot his 17-year-old former girlfriend two weeks later and was convicted of first-degree murder this year.

In another case, sheriff's deputies neglected to serve an attempted-murder warrant for a year. Donte Douglass was finally served Jan. 8 — two days after he was identified as a suspect in another murder case. He was convicted of second-degree murder in the latter case in September.

Sheriff's officials said they have made a special effort to bring violent offenders into custody quickly. In an announcement last week, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley joined Sheriff Melvin C. High to tout positive progress the agency has made in increasing warrant service this year, partially through a state-funded grant that allowed for additional manpower.

"How many murders would we have prevented by this task force?" said Lt. Col. Kenneth Payne. "We only know when we don't get there in time."

The agency prioritizes warrant service by the severity of the crime, placing more emphasis on felony warrants than misdemeanors, officials said.

While they could not explain why the sheriff's deputy did not arrest Mr. Walker when the protective order was served, officials said that as a general rule a misdemeanor charge such as the second-degree assault warrant wouldn't have been categorized as a priority.

But Lt. Col. Payne said that after reviewing Mr. Walker's arrest history, which includes five emergency mental health evaluations and a first-degree rape charge since 2004, the sheriff's office upgraded his warrant to priority status.

"We locked him up pretty quickly for a second-degree assault," Lt. Col. Payne said of the 21-day period from when assault charges were filed and Mr. Walker was taken into custody.

Mr. Walker is now being held at the Department of Corrections without bond, police said.

On at least five occasions in the past several years, sheriff's deputies have been called to his home to hospitalize him, Ms. Taylor said. In 2004, Mr. Walker was charged with first-degree rape. However, he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree assault.

When reached for comment Tuesday, a family member who declined to identify herself was unaware that Mr. Walker had been charged with murder and disputed the allegation.

"He can't be charged with murder," the woman said. "We heard the gunshot and me and my husband and Deangelo were in the house."

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