Officer killed, second shot in E. Baltimore

3 plainclothes police in shootout after Harford Road stop

Anti-violence unit members

March 13, 2001|By Richard Irwin and Lisa Goldberg | Richard Irwin and Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A police officer was fatally shot and another wounded last night in East Baltimore when a man opened fire with a powerful handgun, apparently without provocation.

According to Ragina C. Averella, a police spokeswoman, Officers Michael J. Cowdery and Tiffany Walker, working a plainclothes detail, stopped two men about 10:10 p.m. in the 2300 block of Harford Road for questioning.

While they were talking to them, another came around a corner and began firing a .357-caliber Magnum, hitting Cowdery in the head and upper torso, Averella said.

As Cowdery fell, Walker fired her service weapon at the gunman, Averella said.

A third officer, Ronald A. Beverly, who witnessed the shooting from across the street, also fired at the gunman and followed him about 100 yards east to the 1400 block of Cliftview Ave., where they again traded shots, Averella said. Beverly suffered a graze wound to his leg, and the gunman was shot at least once in the side.

The two wounded officers were taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where Cowdery, 31, who had served on the force for 4 1/2 years, was pronounced dead at 10:43 p.m., police said.

Beverly, 29, was in good condition early today, Averella said.

The alleged gunman, identified as Howard T. Whitworth of the 4900 block of Crenshaw Ave., was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Averella said. Whitworth was in critical condition early today.

The gunman's weapon was recovered, Averella said.

While detectives conducted their investigation in the rain at the two shooting scenes and cordoned off a two-block area of Harford Road, several officers gathered in the lobby of Hopkins' emergency room in a show of support.

The three officers were part of a special 120-officer initiative that has been working to contain violence in East Baltimore since August.

Department commanders gave the officers orders to target drug activity and quell violence.

In the first month, the 120 officers made 960 arrests, 742 of them drug-related.

Cowdery - the 104th city officer to die in the line of duty since 1870 - was the first to be killed by gunfire since Lt. Owen E. Sweeney in May 1997. Sweeney was shot and killed while assisting officers on a routine call.

Four city officers were killed last year in collisions involving police cruisers.

Last month, Centreville police officer Michael S. Nickerson, 24, and Queen Anne's County Sheriff's Deputy Jason C. Schwenz, 28, were shot to death while investigating a noise complaint.

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