Trooper shot dead on Shore Tfc. Plank is slain while stopping car near Princess Anne

2 suspects are questioned

Several kilograms of cocaine allegedly found in suspects' car

October 18, 1995|By PETER HERMANN | PETER HERMANN,SUN STAFF This article was written by Sun staff writer Peter Hermann and reported by Kris Antonelli and Dail Willis.

A manhunt on Maryland's lower Eastern Shore ended yesterday afternoon when police arrested the second of two men suspected of shooting a state trooper to death, closing out a tense day of gunfire, roadblocks and helicopter searches.

The two men were not immediately charged in the shooting of TFC Edward A. Plank Jr., 28, who was killed early yesterday while writing a speeding ticket two miles south of Princess Anne. Detectives were questioning the suspects and said charges could be filed early today.

Police arrested the first suspect man when he burst into a nearby house and opened fire on a homeowner. The resident knocked the suspect unconscious with the butt of a rifle.

The suspect had already been wounded by another trooper shortly after the 12.30 a.m. slaying.

A trooper searching near a police checkpoint found the second man -- believed to be from New York -- about 3 p.m., hiding among bushes and weeds about two miles from where the Trooper Plank was slain.

Police sources said several kilos of cocaine were found in the suspects' car.

Col. David B. Mitchell, the state police superintendent, told a news conference killing was "a dark day in the history of the Maryland State Police."

Flags across the state were lowered to half-staff and troopers wore black mourning bands across their badges. Streams of off-duty police officers from many departments filed into the Princess Anne barracks offering to help.

More than 200 troopers joined the effort and set up to 30 road blocks in Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties, searching scores of cars and trunks as traffic backed up for miles and others were diverted on country roads unaccustomed to gridlock.

Police said little about their investigation, but promised more information at a news conference today.

A state police source said investigators found several kilos of cocaine in the trunk of the suspects' car. Another source said that one of the suspects had been stopped on Route 13 in July 1994 and his car searched for drugs. None, however, was found at that time.

To avoid the heavily patrolled interstates, such as I-95, Route 13 has become a major corridor for drug dealers delivering cocaine, heroin and marijuana to North Carolina and Virginia, said a source.

Trooper Plank was the 35th member of the state police to die in the line of duty, and the first to be fatally shot since Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf was slain in 1990 during a traffic stop on I-95 in Howard County.

Trooper Plank is survived by his 28-year-old wife, Lori, and 7-month-old daughter, Hailey Elaine. Relatives declined to talk to reporters yesterday, but a family friend said that Trooper Plank -- "wanted to be a police officer ever since he could walk."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, talked with the trooper's family over the phone yesterday, issued a statement saying the officer worked "to make our communities safer" and said he demonstrated "courage, dedication and bravery.

"This terrible tragedy also serves as a grim reminder that gun violence can strike at any time, day or night, and that no one is immune," the governor said.

The tragic day began when Trooper Plank pulled over a small red 1991 Plymouth Sundance with North Carolina license plates on a dark, deserted stretch of southbound Route 13, two miles south of Princess Anne, near Perry Road. Police said the car was speeding at 74 miles an hour.

He waited for a backup officer, Trooper Dennis Lord, 23, to arrive, and approached the driver to write a speeding ticket. Police said Trooper Plank apparently became suspicious when the driver's signature didn't match the name on the license.

One of the men in the car shot the trooper once in the head when he returned to the car to clear up the discrepancy. Police said they did not know if the driver or the passenger fired.

Lt. Gregory M. Shipley, a state police spokesman, said Trooper Lord, who was standing behind the suspect's car near the passenger side, opened fire as the car sped away. Trooper Plank was taken to the Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, where he was pronounced dead at 2:56 a.m.

Police said the car sped south on Route 13 and then south on Crisfield Highway. About four miles from the slaying scene, police said the car ran into a small farm pond, becoming partially submerged.

Both men ran, and one burst into a small house nearby, waking up the owner -- identified by relatives as Andrew Robinson -- who confronted the suspect with a rifle. Lieutenant Shipley said the suspect fired several times at Mr. Robinson, but missed.

Chief Somerset County Deputy Sheriff Dan Harrison, who was responding to the trooper shooting when he was diverted to the break-in at the Robinson house, said Mr. Robinson hit the suspect in the head with the butt of his rifle.

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