Questioning Of Suspect Turns Into Officer's Nightmare

April 17, 1991|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

Huddled in the bedroom of a Pumphrey home, state Trooper Michael Grant didn't know if the man across the hall was shooting at him or justfiring a warning shot.

He and four other troopers had gone to thehome in the 300 block of Bishop Avenue to question Robert E. Lewis, 26, about the shooting death of his girlfriend, Dorothy Mae Waller, 32, of Brooklyn Park. Waller's body was left in Queenstown Park near Baltimore-Washington International Airport Sunday night with two bullets in her head and one in her chest.

From the bedroom, Grant heard a second shot, then a scream from somewhere else in the house.

It was any police officer's nightmare:a potential gun battle in a small house filled with at least five family members and five troopers. Grant wasn't sure where everyonewas or who had a gun. Lewis could be taking family members as hostages, then barricade himself in the room. Or worse, he could come out shooting.

"I stepped out into the hall and kicked the door open," he said. "The door hit the body and there he was, laying on the floor in a pool of blood."

Lewis had shot himself in the head with the same gun officers believe he used to kill his girlfriend.

"It was a mess," said Grant, who has been a trooper for 11 years. "I've seen suicides before, but I have never had someone shoot themselves during an interview."

Grant and his fellow officers had arrived at the home 15 minutes before with little "in the way of evidence" against Lewis.

"We knew from interviews with people who knew him that he was a jealous and possessive individual and that he once pulled a gun on her," he said.

After talking with Lewis and his fatherin the kitchen, Grant asked if he could search Lewis' Cadillac. Lewis agreed, saying hehad to get keys from his bedroom.

"I followed him down the hall,"Grant said. "Somehow, members of the family got between me and him."

Grant went to the bedroom door. Lewis had his back to him. When Lewis spun around, Grant was face to face with the barrel of a snub-nose .38-caliber handgun.

"It didn't take three wise men to figure out that I should get out of there," Grant said.

He ducked into thebedroom across the hall. Lewis fired. Trooper Kevin Hickey, who was in the hallway, drew his 9mm semiautomatic handgun when he heard the shot.

Hickey was leery of shooting. Bullets can go through walls, he said, and there were "an awful lot of people in that house."

His first thought was that either Grant had been shot or Grant had shotLewis.

A second shot was fired.

"His brother had been in the room sleeping, and he looks just like Robert," Hickey said. "After thesecond shot, his brother came running out. At first, I didn't know who he was. Then I saw Trooper Grant come out of the other room."

The troopers said they consider themselves lucky.

"If the events had turned out otherwise, if he had shot sooner . . ." Grant speculated. "The first bullet entered the wall in the general direction I had been in."

Although Lewis did not confess to killing Waller, Hickey and Grant said police believe he killed her in his car and pushed herout at the park. The case is closed.

"They were probably parked there and got into an argument," Hickey said.

Waller's body was found about 9:30 p.m. Sunday night in the park off Queenstown Road. Bullet wounds indicated she was shot at close range, Hickey said.

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