Officer fires 22 times at midday on busy street, killing man he was chasing in West Baltimore

June 25, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A city police officer who has been on the force two years killed a man yesterday morning by firing at least 22 shots during a gunbattle on a crowded street just doors from a West Baltimore church.

Officer Ty C. Crane, 29, assigned to the Central District, was placed on routine administrative duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Police and witnesses said the gunman refused several orders to drop his weapon before opening fire on the officer in the 1000 block of W. Lafayette Ave., near the Lafayette Square playground.

The officer returned a volley of shots from his Glock 9 mm semiautomatic handgun and apparently reloaded his weapon and began firing again. The department's handguns hold clips with 17 bullets.

The victim, whom police could not immediately identify, was found slumped in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet Cavalier. Investigators could not say how many times the man, in his 20s, was hit.

The shooting occurred just a week before St. James Episcopal Church is to become a day care center filled with children.

"I thank the God Almighty that we weren't walking the children down the street when this happened," said the Rev. Michael Curry, pastor of the church about five doors from the shooting.

Police said the incident began about 11: 45 a.m. when Crane and another officer walked into an alley off Fremont Avenue to question two men. Malcolm Bradford, 72, the church caretaker, said one of the men was robbing a neighborhood drug dealer at gunpoint.

Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman, said both men ran when the officers approached. One was caught and held, and Crane chased the second man out of the alley, south on Fremont Avenue and then west on Lafayette Avenue.

During the chase, Weinhold said, the officer ordered the man five times to drop the gun. When the man got about halfway up Lafayette Avenue, Weinhold said, he opened the passenger door to the Cavalier and tried to steal it at gunpoint. The driver jumped out and fled.

Police said the gunman then turned toward the approaching officer and fired four shots, using the passenger door as a shield. Weinhold said Crane, who was not hit, returned fire at least 22 times. "The officer fires until he feels the suspect is not a threat," Weinhold said.

Homicide investigators recovered dozens of shell casings and looked at scuff marks where bullets struck the sides of rowhouses. A 1995 Buick driven by a visiting minister was struck in the hood. The minister, who was not identified, was unhurt.

Bradford, who watched the shootout from about 25 feet away, corroborated the police account but questioned why the officer had to fire so often on a busy street.

"They went on a rampage when they shot this man," he said. "You shouldn't have to shoot 22 times to kill a man."

But Bradford said the officer had no choice but to return fire.

"He was a police officer and the man shot at him first," he said. "If a man shoots at you first, what would you do? If you are going to rob a drug dealer, what do you think should happen to you? He's not here anymore to rob anyone else."

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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