Trooper kills man in shootout Off-duty officer intervened in city murder attempt.

December 31, 1991|By Richard Irwin Joe Nawrozki and William B. Talbott contributed to this story. | Richard Irwin Joe Nawrozki and William B. Talbott contributed to this story.,Evening Sun Staff

Police today identified a man who was killed last night during a shootout with an off-duty state trooper in northwest Baltimore.

Michael Steven Maxfield, 19, of the 3700 block of Milford Ave. in northwest Baltimore, was identified as the dead man by his mother, police said.

During the incident, Cpl. Eric R. Claxton, 29, suffered a minor wound when a bullet grazed his upper left leg, police said. He was treated at Sinai Hospital and released around 1:30 a.m. today.

Claxton, a nine-year veteran, is assigned to the warrant fugitive section at the Waterloo Barracks in Howard County.

Chuck Jackson, a State Police spokesman, said Claxton was placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation of the shooting.

Claxton had visited his mother, Jackson said, who lives near the scene of the shooting in the 4300 block of Wabash Ave. He said that about 9:50 p.m., Claxton drove up to the Subway Service Center, an auto repair shop at the corner of Wabash and Belle avenues, to make a call at one of three outside pay telephones.

The repair shop is across the street from the Wabash Avenue Metro station.

The phone next to Claxton was unoccupied but the one nearest Belle Avenue was being used by another man, Jackson said.

Shortly before 10 p.m., as Claxton was talking on the telephone with another trooper, a van occupied by three men stopped on the Belle Avenue side of the repair shop, Jackson said.

A man wearing a purple ski mask got out of the van and yelled something to the man talking on the phone, Jackson said. Claxton turned and saw the masked man draw a handgun, the spokesman said.

The gunman fired at least one shot at the man, missing him, Jackson said. The man fled.

According to Sgt. Gary Childs of the city police homicide squad, Claxton fell to the pavement to protect himself just as the first bullet was fired.

Childs said that as Claxton lay on the pavement, he identified himself as a police officer and ordered the gunman to drop his weapon.

"Around this time," said Childs, "the van and its two occupants sped off."

Childs said the gunman stood in the middle of the repair shop's driveway and fired at Claxton, who had already drawn his service handgun.

4 A bullet grazed Claxton's left leg, Childs said.

Claxton and the gunman continued to exchange fire for several seconds at a distance of about 50 feet, Childs said. At least three or four of the 10 rounds fired by Claxton struck the gunman.

Bleeding from chest wounds, the gunman ran north on Wabash Avenue with Claxton in pursuit, Childs said.

The gunman then ran about 100 feet along an embankment next to the street, Childs said. He dropped his revolver and continued running for about 30 more feet before he fell dead next to a chain-link fence.

Two Northwestern District officers on patrol near the Metro station witnessed the shootout and ran to the scene with their weapons drawn. Childs said that after Claxton identified himself as a state trooper and told the officers he had been shot, they called an ambulance.

"For a few seconds," said Childs, "the two officers weren't sure who Claxton was and were prepared to defend themselves."

Childs said the gunman was pronounced dead at the scene from at least three gunshot wounds to the chest.

Childs said one bullet that hit the gunman went through his body and fell on the street.

Childs said Claxton's 15-shot weapon still had one round in the chamber and several in the clip when the firing ended.

Lt. Robert Stanton, also of the city homicide squad, said the dead man's six-shot Smith & Wesson revolver still had at least one round in it when police recovered it.

Childs had earlier described the dead man as between 5 feet 8 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall and in his early to mid-20s, with a goatee and a mustache. He wore a brown leather jacket, sweat shirt, blue pants and black boot-like shoes.

Police declined to name the intended target of the gunman, a 24-year-old resident of northwest Baltimore who later returned to the scene and was taken to police headquarters for questioning about a motive for the shooting.

"We've ruled out robbery," said Childs, "because the gunman never said anything about money before he started shooting."

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