Officer shot suspect injured in gunbattle

February 18, 1994|By Glenn Small and Larry Carson | Glenn Small and Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writers

A man wounded in a blazing gunbattle with two detectives after he allegedly shot a Baltimore County police officer yesterday remained in critical condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

He also remains a mystery.

County police last night said they didn't know why the man opened fire on Sgt. John D. Weber after a routine stop on Pulaski Highway about 9 a.m. yesterday. They're not even sure of the man's identity, although they believe he's about 21 years old.

"They're rolling his prints right now, so we can try to find out who he is," Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger, a county police spokesman, said.

Sergeant Weber, a 20-year-veteran who has worked as a supervisor in the White Marsh precinct for three years, was shot once in the upper left leg as he approached a bright-blue Datsun sports car whose license plate didn't pass a routine check.

The attack occurred a half-mile from where another officer, James E. Beck, was gunned down and critically wounded while approaching a stopped pickup truck Oct 31.

Sergeant Weber, who is married and has two children, was in good condition last night at Francis Scott Key Medical Center, according to his commanding officer, Capt. Jeffrey Caslin.

"He's going to be fine," said Captain Caslin. The bullet "didn't hit any bones or major arteries, or anything. They're leaving the bullet in. They said there's no need to take it out. He's in good spirits."

Police said Sergeant Weber and Sgt. Richard Handshoe were on their way to Essex District Court when they saw the sports car pull onto Pulaski Highway from a side street.

"It was going below the speed limit," said Captain Caslin. "It was a raggedy-looking car, but the plate was nice and shiny. It just didn't look right."

The officers ran a check on the license tag and found it wasn't listed in Motor Vehicle Administration records. They pulled the car over on Pulaski Highway, just inside the Baltimore Beltway. Sergeant Handshoe stayed in the car and radioed a description while Sergeant Weber got out to approach the driver, police said.

But Sergeant Weber had only stepped a few feet away from the cruiser when the Datsun driver pointed a gun out of the window and began firing.

"He [Sergeant Weber] said every thing was like in slow motion," Captain Caslin said. "And he didn't have a chance to draw his weapon."

The sports car sped off, Sergeant Handshoe called for help, and other police officers in the area began searching for the vehicle.

Det. Vince Romeo and Lt. George Rogers of the burglary squad spotted the Datsun, apparently unoccupied, in the Storage USA lot in the 6100 block of Rossville Blvd.

The man apparently had rented a storage locker and had punched in a security code to get through the gate, police said. As the detectives walked toward the car, a man emerged from a locker, and a close-range gun battle erupted.

Shot at least once in the stomach, the man crawled into storage locker No. 177. Police reinforcements arrived, and the locker was stormed a few minutes later.

"He was pulled out, arrested and flown down to Shock Trauma," Sergeant Doarnberger said.

Police said the officers and suspect fired as many as 30 shots at each other.

Inside the storage locker where the man was arrested, police found a semiautomatic handgun, another car and a motorcycle.

$ Charges are pending.

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