Gunman dies after shots are exchanged at subway station MTA officer wounded

Motive for attack remains a mystery

April 17, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A Mass Transit Administration police officer was wounded and another man was killed Monday night when the two exchanged gunfire outside the Johns Hopkins Hospital subway station, city police said yesterday.

Officer Kenneth Combs, 30, a six-year member of the MTA force, was struck with shotgun pellets in the left side of his abdomen while he sat in a marked police cruiser near the Metro entrance in the 700 block of N. Broadway.

The unidentified assailant was shot when Officer Combs returned fire from his cruiser -- through the windshield -- with his 9 mm Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun, police said.

The man died on the scene and his sawed-off Sears 12-gauge shotgun was found 5 feet from his body, they said.

MTA officials said the incident marked the first time one of their police officers had been wounded in the 25-year history of the force.

Agent Ragina L. Cooper, a city police spokeswoman, said the 11: 25 p.m. attack on the officer appeared to be unprovoked. The suspect "walked up to the officer's car and opened fire," she said.

A spokesman for the union representing MTA police said Officer Combs "was doing what he had to do to deal with the criminal element." Officer Combs, who had been working overtime when the shooting occurred, was in good condition yesterday at Hopkins.

He had not been extensively interviewed by homicide detectives yesterday, and several questions remained unanswered -- such as how close the man was when he fired at the officer, where the suspect was hit and what prompted the deadly exchange, police said.

Agent Cooper said detectives were interviewing one witness, who she said "heard a loud blast close to his home, and then heard several handgun shots." He apparently did not see the incident.

The Hopkins three-level underground Metro station opened in May and is the city's second largest next to Charles Center. The extension under North Broadway offers access to the hospital complex through a concourse. Street-level entrances are at Monument and Jefferson streets. Weekday trains run until midnight.

Anthony Brown, an MTA spokesman, said the subway entrance near Broadway and Monument Street was closed after the shooting, but the other entrance remained open and trains continued to run on schedule.

The spokesman said investigators do not know if the man who shot Officer Combs had emerged from the Metro or had approached the cruiser from the street.

He said little violence is reported around the Hopkins station, which is not crowded at that hour.

MTA Police Chief Bernard Foster spent Monday night and early yesterday at the hospital with Officer Combs, who underwent surgery and is expected to be released in a few days.

Police said no charges were filed against Officer Combs, but the case will be reviewed by the state's attorney's office, as is routine in shootings involving police.

The officer will be placed on administrative duties until the investigation is completed.

Pub Date: 4/17/96

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