Off-duty officer is shot after men taunt, harass him

10-year veteran of city force treated for 2 neck wounds

April 22, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

An off-duty Baltimore police officer was shot in an ambush early yesterday in Southwest Baltimore after he followed four men who had taunted him moments earlier at a gas station in Cherry Hill.

Thomas G. Newman, 36, a plainclothes officer with the department's Warrant Apprehension Task Force, suffered two gunshot wounds to the back of the neck and was released after being treated yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The 10-year police veteran was the fifth officer shot in Baltimore this year and the fourth to be ambushed, authorities said.

Police arrested one man at about 9 p.m. yesterday at an undisclosed location in the Southern Police District. Marcellus E. Henriques, 20, was charged with attempted murder and handgun violations, said Kevin Enright, a police spokesman. Enright declined to comment further.

Appearing angry and stunned at a news conference earlier yesterday, Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said he was disturbed by the brazenness of one of the men, who had a chance to flee but instead chose to fire shots at Newman -- with full knowledge that he was a police officer.

"It's unusual to see [shots fired] when someone has an opportunity to get away," Norris said. "Instead, they choose to ambush him. This ratifies my opinion that Baltimore is a very dangerous place for a police officer. It's a pretty brazen criminal element we're dealing with."

Authorities said Newman pulled his Chevy S-10 pickup into an Amoco gas station at Cherry Hill Road and Waterview Avenue about 2:30 a.m. to buy soda. While there, he encountered four men who began to taunt him for unknown reasons.

Police said Newman told the men to back off. When they continued the harassment, he displayed his badge and identified himself as an officer.

Police said one of the men reached behind his back, which indicated to Newman that he had a gun. Newman then pulled back his jacket to flash his weapon in its holster, police said.

The four men left the station in a dark red Mazda MPV. Newman followed them. Before he left, he told the gas station cashier to call 911. But the cashier failed to do so, police said, possibly because of a language barrier.

Following at a distance, police said, Newman dialed 911 from a cell phone in his truck and provided a description of the men and their vehicle. According to the 911 tape, the dispatcher twice asked Newman if he was in trouble. In a calm voice, he responded that he was not, but requested backup.

The Mazda stopped about a mile away on Salerno Place near Norfolk Avenue in the Westport community. The men left the vehicle and scattered.

Police said Newman stopped some distance behind the Mazda. He was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, and did not see a man sneak up behind his pickup in the darkness. The man fired five shots at the pickup, and Newman screamed, "I've been hit!"

"He had no idea it was coming," said Norris, who reviewed a tape of the 911 call.

Despite his injuries, Newman left his vehicle and fired one shot. He apparently did not hit anyone, police said.

The Mazda was confiscated and police said they will search it for clues.

Norris said Newman followed department procedure: He followed at a safe distance, gave a suspect and vehicle description and called for assistance.

The Fraternal Order of Police has offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the men. Anyone with information is asked to call the police homicide division at 410-396-2100.

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