Hindsight is 20-20, while public perception of policing is nearly blind
These events took place in Baltimore, Maryland around 1984, I don’t remember the exact date it was too long ago, but I’m sure they still apply today and also in many areas across the country.
Public perception is nearly blind
This is what people on Belvedere Ave. in the Northwest District of Baltimore would have seen that day. A young man walking down the street by himself, carrying a plastic shopping bag. He was followed by one police officer (me) walking on foot at a rapid pace and a marked police car was approaching. Both officers moved toward the young man with their guns drawn, ordering him up against the car. As the man put his hands on the car, he tried to grab the bag. As a team, the officers overpowered him and placed him under arrest. Some people that witnessed this began yelling at the police, (us) for harassing this man. After all, their perception was that he was walking down the street minding his own business. So their incorrect conclusion was that the officers were merely harassing him and arrested him without cause.
Hindsight is 20-20
Here is why it happened; or as the late Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.”
I was out of my patrol car, walking foot patrol on my post at the intersection of Elmer Ave and W. Belvedere Ave. An area that was notorious for being an open air illegal drug market. It is also an area where violent riots had occurred. These streets were part of my post, 635, an area that I worked every day. I entered the store at the corner, known for drug activity, to say hello, and to assure them we were keeping an eye on the location.
A person I had known for some time, and had previously arrested for drug sales asked to speak to me. He called me, “Officer Wiley.”
Yes, he knew my name, and we were on speaking terms, even though I had arrested him before. Believe it or not, most interactions with people were not violent, even when making arrests. On the job we had a code, I’ll always treat you with respect, until you change the tone of the conversation.
Acting on credible information
This person told me the man that just left the store as I was walking in, was armed. It’s possible I held the door open for him, but can’t recall. The informant gave me the description and said that the man had a loaded .357 Magnum handgun in a shopping bag. This person also said the guy was in the area looking to settle a dispute with someone.
Although I had arrested the informant before, I had also known him for some time. As a result, I sensed that he was being sincere and honest.
As soon as I exited the store, I could see the described man walking on Belvedere Ave. about 300 feet ahead of me. I radioed his description and location to police dispatch, advised his direction of travel, and that he was possibly armed.
As I began to get closer to the young man, I could see my side partner, 636 unit, approaching in a marked car. We both managed to get to the man simultaneously, each had our service weapon drawn and ordered the man up against the police unit. We heard a heavy thud from the plastic bag as his hands made contact with the cruiser.
Suddenly the suspect tried to reach into the bag. We were able to subdue him by pinning his arms and body against the police car. Inside the plastic shopping bag was a fully loaded Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver. I believe it was later determined to have been stolen. The man was arrested without further incident.
Some names are unforgettable
The arrestee’s name was Flint Gregory Hunt. He was convicted for the offense, although I can’t recall what his sentence was. Yet I suppose he didn’t serve all of his time, as is the norm for Maryland.
About a year later, on November 18, 1985, our hearts were broken when we heard the news that Flint Gregory Hunt had killed one of Baltimore’s Finest. He had shot and murdered Police Officer Vincent J. Adolfo in an alley in the Eastern District of the city.
Officer Adolfo had seen Hunt driving a stolen car that day. He followed the car, which eventually led to a foot pursuit into an alley. Officer Adolfo caught Hunt during the chase. He had him against the wall, when suddenly Hunt came off the structure, a move that is practiced and taught in most prisons, striking Officer Adolfo. Then he began shooting!
Hunt shot Officer Adolpho in the chest at close range. Within seconds, as Adolfo reeled from the first shot, Hunt shot him again, this time in the back, executing our Brother Officer Vincent J. Adolfo.
Flint Gregory Hunt was armed with a .357 Magnum revolver that day. He was convicted and sentenced to death. The State of Maryland executed him on July 2, 1997.
Remembering Officer Vincent J. Adolfo
I didn’t know Officer Adolfo. I don’t believe we had ever met. He worked on the East Side and I was on the West.
I know this doesn’t logically make sense, but for many years I felt guilty. That if somehow, someway I could have done something different then maybe Officer Adolfo would still be alive. As I said, those feelings of guilt didn’t make sense. I was able to work through the doubts and put negative feelings to rest.
Whenever the anniversary of Officer Vincent J. Adolfo’s death arrives, I feel an indescribable sense of sadness. My sorrow is accompanied by the fleeting thought of what if I had done things differently, that day on W. Belvedere Ave.
The truth is that neither I, nor any of the officers working that day did anything wrong. Moreover, we did our jobs to the best of our ability. The same can’t be said for the State Of Maryland, Division Of Corrections leaders, courts and legislature. They let Flint Gregory Hunt back out onto the streets where he could commit more crimes and kill our Brother Officer Vincent J. Adolfo.
John “Jay” Wiley, Law Enforcement Today Radio Show Host; Retired Sergeant Baltimore Police Department