ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the conviction this week of a man who drew a gun on a U.S. Park Service policeman who had pulled over to assist him on the Baltimore Washington Parkway.
Terrell Wallace, 32, was found guilty in March 1995 of assault and transporting a handgun and is serving an eight-year sentence at the Herman L. Toulson Correctional Boot Camp in Jessup.
Wallace and his lawyer, assistant public defender George E. Burns Jr., argued in the trial that the incident resulted from an illegal stop made by the U.S. Park Police.
But in their appeal they tried to convince the higher court that the Prince George’s County Circuit Court was wrong not to suppress the fact that Wallace had a handgun and his reason for having it.
On a night in September 1994, Wallace parked on the shoulder on the Baltimore Washington Parkway and turned on his hazard lights.
A U.S. park policeman, Christopher Perkins, pulled over to help, but first ran a check on Wallace’s license plate. He noticed Wallace watching him in the rearview mirror. When he walked toward the vehicle, Wallace began to drive away.
Perkins got back in his car, honked his horn and stopped Wallace.
In its brief, the defense contended that Perkins had stopped to give help and that once Wallace began to drive away, no help was needed. Stopping to offer help did not justify stopping Wallace as he drove away, they said.
Perkins checked Wallace’s ID and registration. Wallace told him he had been drinking. Perkins walked back to his police cruiser and Wallace got out of the car, holding a gun.
Perkins drew his weapon, and Wallace fumbled with his gun then dropped it.
According to court documents, Wallace claimed he was holding the gun for a friend because he was afraid his friend was going to use it. However, Wallace could not remember his friend’s name when Perkins asked him.
Burns said in an interview that Wallace also said he was merely trying to throw the gun away rather than to shoot Perkins.
Court of Special Appeals Judges Theodore Bloom, Ellen L. Hollander and Glenn T. Harrell Jr. sat on the case and were unanimous in their opinion, issued Thursday.
Wallace had exited his car and drawn his gun at the officer, an act which deprived him of “any reasonable expectation of privacy,” they ruled.
The trial court had said Perkins was justified in stopping Wallace because the situation gave the policeman a “reasonable suspicion.”
The higher court said it need not determine whether Perkins was justified in making the stop, because “evidence of a new crime occurring” even “during an illegal detention” need not be excluded from a case.
Burns, Wallace’s lawyer, said he will decide on Wednesday whether to petition the Court of Appeals. -30-