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District Heights officer indicted in shooting of handcuffed man

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2012

A District Heights police officer who shot a handcuffed man in the back as he fled from the officer's custody was indicted Thursday on attempted murder in connection with the shooting, Prince George's County prosecutors said.

Sgt. Johnnie Riley, an eight-year department veteran, also faces misconduct in office and assault charges stemming from the September shooting that paralyzed 26-year-old Kalvin Kyle from the chest down.

According to District Heights police, Sgt. Riley had arrested Mr. Kyle after he was stopped on a stolen motorcycle in the 6200 block of Foster Street. Mr. Kyle was placed in the back of a police cruiser but escaped and was shot in the back as he fled, said his attorney, Christopher Griffiths.

"The police officer had removed his shoes and handcuffed him and searched him, so he didn't have a weapon," Mr. Griffiths said. "All the officer had to do to stop him was to grab him."

A bullet struck Mr. Kyle in the back, paralyzing him from the chest down. He remained in a hospital undergoing physical rehabilitation until Wednesday, when he was able to return home for the first time since the Sept. 6 shooting, Mr. Griffiths said.

"He's trying to adjust to his new lifestyle," Mr. Griffiths said.

Sgt. Riley, who was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, turned himself in Thursday after the indictment and is being held without bond — at least until a bond-review hearing Friday, said John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George's County office of the state's attorney.

A Prince George's County grand jury indicted Sgt. Riley on attempted murder, first- and second-degree assault, use of a handgun during a crime of violence and two counts of misconduct in office, Mr. Erzen said.

Sgt. Riley's attorney, C.T. Wilson, said Thursday that he was limited in what he could say about the case.

"We're still gathering the facts," Mr. Wilson said. "I have confidence in the justice system."

Criminal charges — including theft, second-degree escape and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle — are pending against Mr. Kyle from the incident.

Given the criminal indictment against Sgt. Riley, Mr. Griffiths is skeptical that law enforcement will pursue the charges against his client.

"It's not likely that the arresting officer is going to want to testify," he said. "It calls into question all allegations."

District Heights officials referred calls about the indictment to Deputy Police Chief Wendell Brantley, who did not return a phone message Thursday.

Mr. Kyle, who is sometimes referred to as Calvin Kyle in Maryland court records, was previously convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon and transporting a handgun from a 2003 incident during which he tried to take the car of an off-duty police officer. He was shot during that incident, too. In addition to the charges from the Sept. 6 incident, Mr. Kyle is also currently facing theft and destruction of property charges from two separate incidents this year.

Mr. Griffiths said Mr. Kyle is considering a civil lawsuit in the shooting.

It wouldn't be the first time Sgt. Riley has faced a civil suit stemming from police action. A woman sued him and the city of District Heights in 2010 after she said Sgt. Riley used pepper sprayed on her during a traffic stop. That case is scheduled to go to court this month.

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