Body armor saves trooper

May 11, 1994|By Richard Irwin and Mike Farabaugh | Richard Irwin and Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writers

A Maryland state trooper -- shot twice in the chest with a .38-caliber pistol just after midnight -- has good reason to celebrate his 32nd birthday today.

Trooper Eric Johanson is alive, thanks to the body armor he was wearing when a motorist shot him twice after a traffic stop in Edgewood. In fact, he was treated for bruises and minor cuts and released from a hospital to go home.

Shortly after Trooper Johanson, of the Benson Barrack, stopped a motorist on U.S. 40 at Mountain Road about 12:20 a.m. because the car's license-plate light was out, the motorist leaned out the window of his Chevrolet Cavalier and shot the trooper twice in the chest at nearly point-blank range as he approached the vehicle.

Police said that following a chase, a suspect, Steven J. Boggs, 24, of the first block of Blister St. in Middle River, Baltimore County, was arrested.

Mr. Boggs was charged today with attempted murder, assault with intent to murder, use of a handgun in a commission of a felony, assault while attempting to elude lawful apprehension and numerous traffic violations.

He appeared this morning before a District Court Commissioner in Bel Air and was being held at the Harford County Detention Center without bond, authorities said.

Court records indicated that Mr. Boggs was employed as a mechanic's helper for about one year by a Middle River heating contractor.

Harry Horney, vice president of the business, described Mr. Boggs as a well-liked, hard-working employee and "never a discipline problem."

Mr. Boggs previously had been sought on a warrant charging him with parole violation. Why he was on parole was not immediately available.

Michael McKelvin, a state police spokesman, said Trooper Johanson was about six feet from the gunman when he was shot, the impact knocking the trooper to the ground.

Witnessing the shooting was Trooper First Class Steve Bocek, a K-9 officer who assisted Trooper Johanson following the traffic stop.

As the gunman sped off after the shooting, Trooper Johanson drew his own gun and fired four shots at the car, hitting it but not the driver.

According to Mr. McKelvin, Trooper Johanson got into his cruiser and followed the car for a short distance before pulling over when he realized he had been shot.

Mr. McKelvin said Trooper Bocek aided his wounded colleague and summoned an ambulance, then took up the chase in his cruiser when Trooper Johanson assured him he was not in severe danger. During the chase, Trooper Bocek broadcast the car's description and direction of travel.

After the suspect drove off, about a dozen state police, Harford County Sheriff's deputies and Aberdeen police cars chased his car east on U.S. 40. State police said that lights on the suspect's car were turned off.

The driver turned around at the Aberdeen Wal-Mart, drove through the store's parking lot and headed west on Route 7.

Near Route 7 and Perryman Road, the suspect pulled over and ran from his car, headed for a wooded area, police said.

With officers in pursuit, a bullet officers said was fired by the suspect hit the left front quarter-panel of a patrol car driven by Deputy 1st Class Duane Williams.

Deputy 1st Class Joseph Mina chased the man down and made the arrest with a flying tackle.

Meanwhile, Trooper Johanson, a seven-year state police veteran, was taken to Fallston General Hospital, where he was treated for the effects of minor wounds to the chest and side, and released.

Mr. McKelvin said the bullets left bruises and lacerations about the size of silver dollars on the trooper's chest.

Mr. McKelvin credited the body armor with saving Trooper Johanson's life. "The body armor did its job," he said.

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