Drug suspect is slain, said to menace officer

March 09, 1993|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

A drug suspect was shot and killed by a veteran police officer in South Baltimore yesterday when the man allegedly was about to assault another officer with a shovel, a police spokesman said.

James Harrington Lewis, 23, of the 1000 block of St. Paul St. was pronounced dead about 3:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center of a gunshot wound in the abdomen, said spokesman Agent Doug Price.

Officer Joseph F. Stephens, a 19-year veteran and plainclothes member of the Southern District Drug Enforcement Unit, was placed on administrative duty pending the outcomes of investigations by the state's attorney's office and the department's Internal Affairs Division.

According to the police account of the incident, Officer Stephens and another plainclothes officer were on an undercover operation about 2 p.m. when they saw a man sell a small vial of suspected cocaine to a woman near the 900 block of S. Hanover St.

Police arrested the woman and the man ran, Agent Price said. The two undercover officers -- joined by a uniformed officer -- chased the man on a zigzag course through alleys and side streets, the spokesman said.

The officers nearly caught the man several times but he eluded them, Agent Price said. Witnesses told the officers that the man had jumped into a fenced yard behind the 100 block of W. Montgomery St., the spokesman said.

Agent Price said Officer Stephens "assumed a position atop a parked car" while the other plainclothesman, Officer William J. Narango, 39, and uniformed Southern District Officer Steven Holley, 38, scaled the fence.

As Officer Narango reached the top of the fence, the man "had picked up a shovel, came across the yard and raised the shovel in a menacing posture," Agent Price said.

"Fearing serious bodily harm or death might have been imminent, the officer [Officer Stephens] fired two shots, one which struck the suspect in the abdomen," Agent Price said.

He said the investigation is continuing, and he could not address several questions.

Agent Price did say that Officer Narango, who was threatened with the shovel, had not drawn his 9mm. service weapon.

Police identified the woman who was arrested as Phyllis M. Burns, 29, of the 900 block of S. Charles St. Agent Price said she was charged with drug possession.

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