No-win situation for police

Rodgers Forge: Officers often second-guessed in armed standoffs, but they try to avoid bloodshed.

September 09, 1999

ON LABOR DAY, Baltimore County police tried for 12 hours to persuade Tambra W. Eddinger to surrender at her Rodgers Forge home, where she was holed up with a rifle. When she refused, and then turned with her weapon toward police, an officer shot her three times. She died from the wounds.

When a police shooting occurs, second-guessing often follows. But county police seem to have acted properly in trying to end this incident less tragically. The shooting remains under investigation and the officer who fired his weapon has been placed on administrative leave, as is routine.

Ms. Eddinger was armed and believed to have been intoxicated. As the standoff dragged on from 4 a.m. toward 4 p.m., the 40-year-old woman became more threatening, less coherent. She had been charged with attacking her husband earlier in the weekend. Because she was armed and had access to windows, the surrounding neighborhood was paralyzed for the day, with police asking residents to stay indoors.

Police spoke with Ms. Eddinger by phone until she cut off communications. As in all barricade situations, trained negotiators had a psychiatrist to advise them. Police tried to force the woman from her home with tear gas and a device that generates a bright light and loud noise called a "flash bang." Police also tried to get her attention by shooting rubber projectiles through a window.

When police finally entered the house, she turned toward them with rifle in hand. When confronted with an aggressor pointing a weapon, police are trained to shoot. Two years ago, Baltimore City Lt. Owen E. Sweeney was killed in a similar situation.

Baltimore County police have handled 13 barricade negotiations this year. This was the first fatality. Had an officer or a neighbor been killed instead, people would be demanding to know why police hadn't rushed in sooner.

Pub Date: 9/09/99

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