The police shooting Monday of a man in Park Heights was the fourth time in three weeks that a city officer has shot someone, and the second time it involved an unarmed suspect who allegedly struggled with officers.
Three of the people hit by police gunfire since Jan. 13 have died. The man shot Monday night, Derrick Owens, 28, of West Baltimore survived a bullet wound to his back. He was in stable condition yesterday at Sinai Hospital.
In all of 1997, city police shot 14 people, five of them fatally. Police attribute the high number this month to officers aggressively targeting violent individuals and what seems to be a heightened disregard for authority.
"We are very concerned about the people who are carrying guns in our community," said Rodney Orange, head of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which monitors all police-involved shooting.
"People are resisting when they are caught in these situations," Orange said. "There clearly seems to be a lack of respect for law enforcement."
Police have noted an increase in assaults on officers, saying that 1,224 officers were attacked in Baltimore last year, compared with 1,120 in 1996 -- a 9.3 percent increase.
"The department is clearly targeting violent crime and violent crime offenders," said Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a city police spokesman. "When you target violent offenders, certainly there is a higher risk factor involved for officers."
The four city police shootings this month occurred Jan. 13, Jan. 20, Sunday and Monday.
Monday's shooting began about 10 p.m. when Officers Alan Dorsey and James Dill saw a man beating his girlfriend in the 4500 block of Park Heights Ave. in Northwest Baltimore, police said. They chased the man into an alley and tried to subdue him.
Officer Angelique Cook-Hayes, a department spokeswoman, said that Dorsey's 9 mm Glock service weapon discharged once during the struggle, hitting Owens in the back. She said it has not been determined whether discharge "was accidental or intentional."
But Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the police union, said Dorsey meant to fire his weapon during what he described as a violent struggle in which both officers were bitten -- one so severely that a finger was broken -- and hit in the heads with a 2-by-4.
McLhinney said the officers tried unsuccessfully to subdue the suspect with pepper spray before drawing their guns.
It was similar to the Jan. 13 shooting, when Officer Shane C. Stufft struggled with a suspected drug dealer in a West Baltimore alley. The officer fired twice, killing the suspect and wounding himself in the hand.
"In two of the shootings, we've had really violent physical struggles," McLhinney said. "They are not your typical deadly force situation, but nevertheless, they are extremely dangerous to the officers involved."