msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/17/2010 5:22:23 PM ET 2010-10-17T21:22:23

A man was charged Sunday in the death of an off-duty Baltimore police detective who was killed the night before by a blow to the head during a fight over a parking space, police said.

Sian James, 25, was charged Sunday with first-degree murder in the death of Det. Brian Stevenson. James fled the scene and was caught hours later at a nightclub, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Guglielmi said James had retained an attorney, but he did not know Sunday afternoon who the lawyer was.

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Police say Stevenson had gone out Saturday night to celebrate his birthday with a friend. The 18-year veteran with the department, would have turned 38 on Sunday, Guglielmi said. 

"The preliminary investigation revealed an altercation took place over a parking place," Guglielmi said. As the dispute escalated, he said, "A suspect pulled a rock or large piece of concrete from the ground and struck the officer with it."

The attack happened in Baltimore's southeast neighborhood of Canton, where police blocked off the crime scene in the parking lot of the Mercy-Canton Family Care center on the 2800 block of Hudson Street, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Stevenson sustained head trauma and died later that night at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

James, who has a history of domestic violence, left the scene with a woman he was with, but was arrested hours later at Mosaic, a downtown nightclub, after police quickly gathered and interviewed witnesses, Guglielmi said.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld commended the quick work of his officers.

"Dozens of officers, investigators and civilian personnel put their lives on hold and worked throughout the night," Bealefeld said.

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The attack happened in what Guglielmi described as "a very safe part of town." He said he lacked the words "to describe how heinous this act of violence is for something as truly petty as a parking space."

Even so, neighbors described the neighborhood as being chaotic on weekends, the Sun reported.

"It's a circus here every weekend," said Tricia Zebron, 42, whose home is across the street from the incident.

Stevenson, who was married and had children, was assigned to a detective unit that investigates crimes such as shootings, assaults and robberies in northwest section of Baltimore, Guglielmi said.

His slaying is the first violent death of a police officer in Baltimore since 2007, when Det. Troy L. Chesley Sr. was shot during a gunfight in a robbery attempt, the Baltimore Sun said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Officer slain in fight over parking spot

  1. Closed captioning of: Officer slain in fight over parking spot

    >>> in baltimore, an off-duty police detective celebrating his birthday last night was killed in a fight over a parking space . he was struck in the head with a rock or concrete. two suspects are in custody. the officer would have turned 38 today.

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