No charges for retired officer who shot at thief

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office has declined to press charges against a retired police officer who shot at a thief.

Charles A. Duck will not face any charges in the Jan. 13 incident because Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson believes the action was justified and did not constitute criminal misconduct, according to a letter he wrote to Police Chief Thomas Bennett.

According to a summary of the evidence in the letter, Duck was asleep in his recliner on the first floor of his White Marsh Road home when he heard the dog barking. His wife then came downstairs to tell him someone was trying to take the dog box in the yard.

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She then went into an adjoining room, raised the window and yelled at the suspect to leave the box alone, which he did not do.

According to the letter, Duck then got his weapon, got up and went to the living room window.

“Mr. Duck stated this took several seconds due to a very recent operation to his left leg,” Ferguson wrote.

Duck told police he propped his leg up on a stool, raised the window and told the suspect to leave the box alone, come from behind the truck and lie on the ground.

“Mr. Duck stated the suspect seemed as if he was moving towards the front of the truck but he seemed nervous and looking around,” Ferguson wrote. “Mr. Duck stated all of a sudden the suspect snatched the right hand door open to the truck and dove in the vehicle from the passenger’s side. Mr. Duck stated he didn’t know why the suspect did this and felt he may have been going for a gun so he fired two shots at the windshield of the truck hitting the windshield one time.”

Duck then saw the suspect sitting behind the wheel and fleeing the scene.

“Mr. Duck then stated he knew at that time deadly force was not appropriate so he tried to disable the vehicle by shooting out the left front and rear tire of the vehicle,” the letter continues. The distance from the window to the left rear acceleration mark was 39 feet, Ferguson wrote.

Asked why he felt deadly force was appropriate, Ferguson wrote, Duck “stated when the suspect dove in the truck the way he did he was in fear for his life as it was his belief the suspect may have been going for a gun.” Both Duck and his wife were in the direct line of fire if the suspect had had a gun, the letter continues.

The suspect in the theft, Quamaine Lassiter, sought treatment at Sentara Obici Hospital soon after the shooting for a gunshot wound to his head. The bullet lodged under his skin and did not penetrate the skull.

Lassiter has repeatedly claimed he was shot near the intersection of Cummings Street and Lake Kennedy Drive by a man driving a silver or champagne Lexus. However, the truck with bullet holes in it was found in front of Lassiter’s girlfriend’s house.

“Currently, he is totally uncooperative with this investigation,” Ferguson wrote. Lassiter was charged this week with grand larceny, larceny with intent to sell and conspiracy in an unrelated case.

Doctors have recommended against removing the bullet, and it therefore cannot be compared with Duck’s gun, Ferguson added.

In Ferguson’s conclusion, he wrote it is “reasonable for Mr. Duck to believe that the thief was getting into the vehicle to retrieve a weapon or that he had a weapon on him and wanted to get into the vehicle to use it as cover to fire on Mr. Duck and/or Mrs. Duck. Because of his recent surgery, Mr. Duck was especially vulnerable, as he could only move very slowly.”

Ferguson continued that it is significant that Duck did not shoot at the cab portion of the truck once the thief got behind the steering wheel.

“This reinforces the fact that Mr. Duck originally shot solely because he feared for his own and/or his wife’s safety,” Ferguson wrote. “Thereafter, he shot only at the tires on the truck in an attempt to stop the vehicle and prevent a fleeing felon from escaping. This he was entitled to do under the facts and circumstances of this case.”

The decision echoed one in a similar case from June 21, 2009, where Ferguson cleared a Whaleyville convenience store owner of wrongdoing after he shot through the glass window of his store and killed a burglar.