Described as 'pretty up,' officer shot in neck during chase returns to station

June 15, 1994|By Michael James | Michael James,Sun Staff Writer

Less than five hours after being shot in the neck during a high-speed chase, Officer Eric Paul Dawson returned to Baltimore's Southern District police station -- upbeat and feeling lucky to be alive.

Wearing a neck brace and with a .32-caliber bullet still lodged at the base of his skull, the officer was in good spirits and chatted for about a half hour with his fellow officers about his brush with death, said his sergeant, Joseph W. Weber.

"To say he's feeling lucky would be an understatement,"Sergeant Weber said. "He's thanking the Lord.

He seemed to be pretty up. With a bullet that came that close -- and to be able to walk away, you've got to feel pretty up.

"You watch the cop shows on TV and you hope it won't happen to you. But it can happen anytime to any of us."

The officers said they couldn't believe it when their wounded comrade walked into the station on Cherry Hill Road. After chatting with him, they gave him a ride home. Efforts to reach him there were unsuccessful last night.

Officer Dawson, 37, a 13-year veteran of the force, was the first officer involved in yesterday morning's high-speed chase along Inter-- state 95. He was shot in his police cruiser after pulling alongside a fleeing Ford Bronco driven by a man who had abducted his girlfriend.

The incident occurred on I-95, just north of the Interstate 895 exit in Howard County.

The gunman, John Ellsworth Porter III, 31, later shot his girlfriend in the head -- miraculously, she was not seriously injured -- before fatally shooting himself near the Caton Avenue exit of I-95.

For Officer Dawson, who is assigned to Sector 4 of the Southern District, yesterday's high-speed was an unusual event. On a typical day, he would have been responding to drunk-and-disorderly calls along the bar strips south of the Inner Harbor and prostitution complaints along Hanover Street, his fellow officers said yesterday.

"He's got Hammerjacks and dozens of other bars in his sector. He's got drunks, accidents, prostitutes up on Hanover Street, but not a lot of violence," said one officer who declined to give his name. "We don't have the guns and the shootings that the Eastern and Western [districts] have."

During last year's record-breaking year for city homicides, the Southern District accounted for only 5 percent of the murders -- 18 out of 353 murders. The district also reported the least number of rapes and robberies, although it ranked second in the number of larcenies, with 4,953.

Sergeant Weber said Officer Dawson "is one of those people that will always be there on the spot when something happens. He won't back away from a call. When the call came out [yesterday] he radioed in immediately and said, 'I just saw a guy matching that description getting into a car.' "

Officer Dawson later told his fellow officers that he was attempting to get in front of the fleeing Bronco to slow it down.

Without warning, he said, the driver fired a shot at him.

The bullet in the officer's neck does not pose any immediate medical complications. Officer Dawson is expected to undergo another medical examination on Monday, when doctors will evaluate his condition and decide on whether to remove the bullet.

Sergeant Weber said that Officer Dawson told his friends at the precinct yesterday that he was "shocked -- just shocked that this guy fired a gun at him."

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