City FOP offers reward to find witness in killing

Man, 20, might know suspect in the shooting of Baltimore officer

March 16, 2001|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

The union representing Baltimore police officers is offering a $2,000 reward for help in finding what could be a crucial witness to the shooting Monday that left a city officer dead and another wounded.

William "Mookie" Houston, 20, was one of two men being questioned by officers in the 2300 block of Harford Road when a gunman fatally shot Agent Michael J. Cowdery Jr. in the head. The first man was detained and released Tuesday; Houston ran away as a gunfight erupted.

Police said Houston might know the man charged in the shooting, Howard Tyrone Whitworth, 31, and he might be able to help detectives establish a motive.

"We need to know exactly what happened," said Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 3, which is offering the reward.

Police officers and friends lined up yesterday at Vaughn C. Greene Funeral Home in the 4900 block of York Road to pay respects to Cowdery, 31, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and joined the force four years ago.

Glendening visits

Gov. Parris N. Glendening was among the mourners. The governor met privately with the officer's father, Michael J. Cowdery Sr., a 28-year Philadelphia police veteran.

The younger Cowdery was with three colleagues, two of whom were questioning two suspicious men in front of a carryout on Harford Road about 10:10 p.m. He was steps away talking with a woman, police said, when a gunman ran from Cliftview Avenue toward the officers and pulled a .357 Magnum handgun from his waistband. Without warning, police said, Cowdery was shot in the leg and head.

Officers Tiffany D. Walker and Ronald A. Beverly returned fire as the gunman ran east on Cliftview. During the gunfight, Beverly was wounded in the ankle, and the suspect was hit in the side.

Police have charged Whitworth in a warrant with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He remained in serious condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he is under police guard, and will be formally charged on his release.

No clear motive known

Maj. Robert M. Stanton, commander of the homicide unit, said detectives do not have a clear motive.

Stanton said Whitworth, who has been convicted of drug possession three times since 1993, had 40 vials of suspected crack cocaine when he was taken into custody.

Investigators believe that the officers might have interrupted a drug market on Harford Road, and that Cowdery, dressed in plainclothes, was mistaken for a rival intruding on the dealers' turf. None of the officers had their guns drawn before the shooting.

Viewing for the officer will continue from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St.

Burial will be in Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium.

In addition to his father and mother, Constance, Cowdery is survived by a son, Matthew Dickerson, who lives outside Philadelphia; and a sister, India Cowdery of Glen Burnie.

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