12/21/2005

Update: Two officers killed, another arrested in suspected Baltimore love triangle

JENNIFER MCMENAMIN, GUS G. SENTEMENTES AND JOSH MITCHELL, SUN REPORTERS

Copyright 2005 The Baltimore Sun Company 

A state Department of General Services police officer was being held this morning on two counts of first-degree murder - charged with killing his former fiancee and the man she was dating, both of them Baltimore City police officers.

The two city officers, Adam Vazquez and Leslie A. Holliday, were found shot to death in a Pikesville townhouse yesterday shortly after noon. Vazquez, a 4 1/2 -year veteran of the city force, and Holliday, a newcomer to the force and mother of three, both worked the midnight shift at the department's Northwest District.

Eugene Victor Perry Jr., 33, an officer with the Department of General Services, surrendered to Baltimore County police yesterday afternoon. He was charged early this morning with two counts of first-degree murder and related offenses, police said. Perry was being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Though police did not offer a specific motive for the shooting, Holliday's mother, Bernice Johnson, said her daughter had been engaged to the suspect until last summer. And she recently had been dating Vazquez, the mother said.

A Baltimore County police spokesman confirmed that the three knew one another and that the shooting was "not a random crime." Vazquez, 26, and Holliday, 28, were found dead with multiple gunshot wounds about 12:10 p.m. in Vazquez's house in the Courtland Manor neighborhood of Pikesville, police said.

An adult couple and young child were at the house, in the 3900 block of M'Ladies Court, at the time of the shooting, police said. Police said they were unsure of the connection between Vazquez and the adults. Neighbors said they believed Vazquez and the others were relatives.

Police said the couple had let the suspect into the house and later called 911 after the two officers were shot on the second floor.

Police recovered the handgun believed to have been used in the shootings, county police spokesman Bill Toohey said. The gun was not the officer's service weapon, he said.

Holliday, who was raising a 12-year-old daughter and two younger sons in her mother's Joppa home, had been divorced from the children's father for about five years.

Her mother said yesterday that she was watching television when a crawler along the bottom of the screen reported that two city officers had been killed. She left a voice mail message for her daughter - "Leslie, call me" - then the television showed an image of the crime scene.

"I said, `That's Leslie's car,'" Johnson, 62, added in a thick Caribbean accent.

She later learned that the suspect was the man to whom her daughter was engaged for about two years until last summer, when Holliday returned his ring. Holliday had told her mother of breaking off the engagement but did not say why, Johnson said. She said Holliday had recently been "seeing" Vasquez.

Holliday, a graduate of Joppatowne High School, had returned Tuesday from Trinidad, where she attended her paternal grandmother's funeral, Johnson said.

Neighbors of Vazquez said he moved into the townhouse nine months ago. He was often seen walking his small dog, Peanut. "He was a very likable person," said Jerry McDonald, a neighbor. "When I cut my grass, I cut his."

McDonald said he sometimes saw Holliday stop by Vazquez's house. "She told me at one time that they had an agreement that they [were] friends because he wasn't ready to get married," McDonald said.

Experts are divided over how prone law enforcement officers are to domestic violence.

Some point to studies that they say show domestic violence is two to four times more common among police families than all families. Others say the data are not conclusive and they believe that police officers are no more likely than the rest of the population to attack their loved ones.

But these experts acknowledged that when officers act out with a spouse or partner, there is often a greater chance for a violent, even lethal, result.

"When you have officers involved, you automatically have guns nearby," said Doug Ward, deputy director of the Division of Public Safety Leadership at the Johns Hopkins University in Columbia and a retired major with the Maryland State Police.

He added that officers regularly live outside the county or city where they work, making it more difficult for a department to be notified that its officer has a problem.

David R. Thomas, who works with Ward as assistant director for the domestic violence education program at Hopkins, has helped police departments establish new policies and procedures related to officer-involved domestic violence.

He went to Tacoma, Wash., after a police chief there murdered his wife and then shot himself in April 2003. Thomas has a trip scheduled to Connecticut, where a state trooper recently shot and killed his ex-girlfriend before he killed himself.

"What I try to do is to try to learn from these tragedies and try to prevent them from happening in the future," Thomas said. "We have to recognize the signs and then act accordingly."

Perry worked at one point for the Housing Authority police in Baltimore, according to a city law enforcement source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

When that agency was disbanded last year, housing officers who wanted to transfer to the Police Department had to undergo background checks and evaluations. Perry requested to join the department, but was not hired for unspecified reasons, the source said.

That employee is one of General Services' approximately 90 sworn law enforcement officers, who are authorized to carry weapons and have arrest powers, said Warner I. Sumpter, chief of the Department of General Services police.

The force also about 80 security officers, who do not have arrest powers and do not carry weapons, he said.

He said that officers and security personnel with the DGS police force are responsible for security at state facilities in Annapolis, Baltimore and Reisterstown. He declined to provide additional employment information about the officer being questioned in yesterday's shooting.

The most recent city police officer slain was Brian D. Winder in July 2004.

Twice before have two officers been killed in the same incident. John Platt and Kevin McCarthy were killed in a car crash caused by a drunken driver in October 2000.

Michael Neary and James Dunn were hit by a train in the Jones Falls area in June 1894 while investigating reports of illegal swimmers in the Jones Falls area.

Just down the street from the shooting scene yesterday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm talked of the slain officers and their colleagues' response to their deaths.

"It's hard," he said. "Our job now is to come together as a department and carry on the job we have to do on the street."

Hamm described Vazquez as an "outstanding officer" and said that Holliday was nearing the end of her probationary period of employment.

Holliday had been with the department for about year and a half. She had worked as a paralegal at two law firms and volunteered at Fallston General Hospital before joining the department. She had been working the midnight patrol shift in the Northwest District for eight months after three months of field training.

"She was very vibrant, enthusiastic, conscientious. ... She loved her job and she loved her family," said her supervisor, Deputy Maj. Mary Eilerman.

Yesterday afternoon, her children were at an after-school program at a nearby church, where they had been anticipating a holiday party. The only thing they knew was that their mother was in the hospital, Johnson, their grandmother, said. They were soon in the car of their father.

At the department's Northwest District station, an American flag was lowered to half-staff yesterday afternoon as a crisis-intervention team met with officers inside. One officer had breakfast with Vazquez yesterday morning, said Cpl. Debbie Owens.

"They're just young officers," Owens said, "that really hadn't had a chance to experience being police."

jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun.com gus.sentementes@baltsun.com josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Richard Irwin, Justin Fenton, Liz F. Kay, Jill Rosen and Matthew Dolan contributed to this article.

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