An off-duty city police officer was shot twice yesterday afternoon in an exchange of gunfire with a man who had entered his car outside the officer's Southwest Baltimore home, authorities said.
Officer Michael V. Byrd, 34, a 12-year veteran, was treated at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center for bullet wounds in his right leg and left arm. He was listed in fair condition last night.
Capt. Gary G. Lembach said Officer Byrd had been washing his car in an alley next to his rowhouse in the 700 block of Ramsay St. Shortly after 1 p.m, he went into his house, returning to find a man stretched across the front seats of his dark blue Mercedes 250E.
Police said the man sat up and fired several shots from a .25-caliber handgun through the windshield. "The officer backed and the suspect came out of the car," Captain Lembach said. "We are uncertain of what happened next. There was another exchange of gunfire."
Officer Byrd told investigators that he may have hit the gunman, who apparently walked away from the scene, when returning his gunfire.
No arrests were made, but officers were guarding a man who walked into the emergency room at University of Maryland Medical Center about 3 p.m. "bleeding profusely from his leg," Captain Lembach said.
The man told doctors he had backed into a nail. The captain said his description differed slightly from that of the suspect and that he appeared to be drunk. Homicide detectives were waiting to question the man after doctors completed their evaluation.
Police were searching area hospitals last night for anyone seeking treatment for bullet wounds.
Neighbors of Officer Byrd near the B&O Railroad Museum
described the shooting scene as chaotic, with many shots echoing.
"It was just a constant round of gunshots," said Marshall West, 30, who lives in Randallstown and was visiting relatives two doors from where Officer Byrd lived. "At least it sounded that way. We hit the floor."
Mr. West said that after the shooting he saw an armed man walking north in the alley where the officer's car was parked and circle around five rowhouses.
A Ramsay Street resident said he then looked out his front window and saw an armed man walk up another alley, crouch before he stepped onto Ramsay and walk back to the Mercedes.
"The guy maneuvered around the corner like he was on a mission," said the neighbor, who did not want his name used. "I ran to call 911, and then I heard more gunfire . . . he was like a military guy. He picked out a target and then went after him.
"To me it wasn't a theft going down. Why would a guy in the process of stealing a car circle back?"
Police could not confirm those reports, but authorities had yellow police tape blocking off the second alley and had circled blood splotches with chalk marks at the entrance.
A few minutes after the first 911 call came in to police headquarters, someone else called police to say a man was reloading a handgun and walking back toward Ramsay Street. Officers checking the area were unable to locate the man, police said.
Captain Lembach said investigators were unsure how many shots were fired, but said the wounded officer was armed with his police-issued 9mm Glock handgun when he was confronted.
Investigators believe the shooter was either trying to steal the car or take something from it, the captain said. "The victim seems to think the suspect was into his glove compartment looking around. When the officer came out, it surprised him," he said.
Officer Byrd is assigned to the department's Crime Resistance Unit, which is responsible for doing security surveys for businesses and homeowners, teaching them how to protect themselves.