The parents of a teenage girl slain by her ex-boyfriend after the Prince George's County Sheriff's Office failed to arrest the man on an open warrant are angered that the agency has again mishandled an arrest warrant for another man now accused of murder.
"We are a year later, and we are still mishandling open warrants or not taking them seriously," said Tawanda Brown-Hines, the stepmother of LaCole Hines, who was fatally shot in August 2010. "If this happens once, and it happens again, when are they going to do something about this?"
In the latest warrant mishap, a sheriff's deputy served a peace order to a man with an open warrant for second-degree assault on Sept. 19, but failed to take the man, Deangelo Walker, into custody. Police say Mr. Walker fatally shot William Albert Nelson, 47, in his Capitol Heights neighborhood in a dispute over money several hours later.
"Protocol would require the officer to arrest this guy," sheriff's office spokeswoman Sharon Taylor said Wednesday. "What we have to see is if he had the information — and if he didn't have it, why he didn't have it."
In Hines' case, deputies never attempted to arrest Marcus Shipman on a warrant for first-degree assault after he threatened Hines with a gun during an ongoing dispute over custody of their son, then 1 month old. The felony arrest warrant issued after the incident was never served because it was misfiled in a stack of misdemeanor warrants, the sheriffs office said at the time.
Two weeks later, Shipman shot her at point-blank range in the head outside of a Landover liquor store.
Last year, when County Executive Rushern L. Baker, a Democrat, ran for office against former Sheriff Michael A. Jackson, he used the mishandled-warrant incident as part of his campaign rhetoric.
On Wednesday, he had little to say about the latest incident but to express support for current Sheriff Melvin C. High.
"County Executive Baker has complete confidence in Sheriff High and the Prince George's County Sheriff's Department to investigate and get to the bottom of this issue," spokesman Scott Peterson said in an email.
LaCole Hines' father, Ricky Hines, said he was upset that Mr. Baker used his daughter's case to bolster his political career yet has not fixed the problems that allowed the warrant for his daughter's killer to slip through the cracks.
"He was trying to say how the old administration didn't do things right," Mr. Hines said. "That shows to me that he felt there was some wrong done there."
Following Hines' death, the sheriff's office changed its protocol when categorizing warrants, requiring more people to review incoming warrants in order to catch any mistakes. Since December, when Sheriff High, the county's former police chief, was elected sheriff, he has pledged to reduce the number of open warrants in the county.
In the most recent case, agency officials noted Mr. Walker had a history of violence and mental illness, prompting them to flag his misdemeanor warrant and elevate its priority for service.
Even with the increased attention, it was 21 days from the time the second-degree assault charge was filed to the time he was taken into custody.
Mr. Walker was arrested at his home in Capitol Heights at 6 a.m. Sept. 20, Ms. Taylor said. His arrest came nine hours after Nelson was fatally shot.
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