Details of May drug sting, chase revealed at hearing

Attempt to arrest suspected dealer led to gunfire, police pursuit

January 10, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Police had been watching Lawrence Thomas III for a month and using a confidential informant to build a drug case by the time they tried to arrest him on U.S. 1 in Elkridge, sparking a violent confrontation and chase that left a Howard County officer injured, according to court testimony yesterday.

Police thought Thomas was on his way to deliver a drug order to the informant when a patrol officer tried to stop the rented Chrysler Thomas was driving May 5, Cpl. Mark Verderaime, a narcotics detective, testified at a hearing in Howard County Circuit Court in Ellicott City.

The testimony and police reports on the suspected drug transactions and the chase were made public for the first time as a prosecutor and Thomas' public defender argued over what evidence should be allowed in the trial.

Judge Lenore R. Gelfman ruled yesterday that prosecutors could introduce evidence of four drug sales at Thomas' trial. She denied a defense request to suppress evidence - including crack cocaine - that was collected during a search of the rented car.

Charges against Thomas, 24, of Glen Burnie include attempted murder, assault and drug possession. He also is facing charges stemming from the chase, which started on U.S. 1 and wound up and down U.S. 29 and through Ellicott City. Thomas was arrested on a parking lot in Catonsville.

Verderaime testified that a "source" contacted him in April and told him that a known drug dealer was turning the business over to Thomas.

A confidential informant used Verderaime's cellular phone to set up drug buys four times in Baltimore and Howard counties, the last time on May 5, the day of the chase. Each time, Verderaime and at least two other officers were on hand to monitor the buys, according to testimony.

On the day of the chase, the informant made the final buy and then arranged with Thomas to purchase more of the drug, Verderaime said. After the pair parted, police followed Thomas into Baltimore, where they thought he was getting more crack cocaine, Verderaime said.

After Thomas crossed back into Howard County, apparently on his way to meet with the informant, he was pulled over by Officer Ann Giardina, Verderaime said.

During the resulting confrontation, Thomas' Chrysler rammed two police cars and accelerated toward an officer, according to testimony. The officer then fired at the car. Giardina, a recent police academy graduate, was shot in the leg, apparently hit by a stray bullet fired by a fellow officer. Thomas then fled, police say, beginning the chase that ended in Catonsville.

Thomas is being held at Howard County Detention Center in Jessup. No trial date has been scheduled.

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