Man killed by Howard police

Apparently unarmed, suspect had tried to enter family home

September 11, 2001|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A Howard County K-9 unit police officer shot and killed an apparently unarmed man in a wooded area of Columbia yesterday afternoon after the man refused to respond to repeated police commands to surrender.

The incident - the first fatal police shooting in the county in more than two years - followed what appears to have been a series of skirmishes between the man and his parents. The shooting is expected to be reviewed by police and the Howard County state's attorney's office.

Pfc. Timothy Wiley, a seven-year veteran of the force, fired one round from his .40-caliber Sig Sauer handgun into the upper torso of Harold Clifton Schwartz, 43, of North Laurel, police said.

Police spotted Schwartz running into the woods behind his parents' house in the 8500 block of Guilford Road in the village of Kings Contrivance after they responded to a call from the house reporting that Schwartz had attempted to break in and was armed with a handgun.

Wiley and other officers used a police dog to track Schwartz through the woods and found him lying against a downed tree trunk with his back to them, said Tim McCrone, Wiley's lawyer.

Schwartz repeatedly shouted that he would not show officers his hands and made slashing gestures at his own neck, McCrone said. Wiley and Schwartz were just a few feet apart, the lawyer noted.

"I am convinced that when he realized that police had caught him, he used them to commit suicide," McCrone said.

Schwartz was not holding a weapon when Wiley fired, and, as of last night, police searches of the woods had not turned up a weapon that Schwartz might have held, county police spokesman Sgt. John Superson said.

Police dispatchers indicated that Schwartz had a handgun when he was trying to break into his parents' home, and Wiley believed the man had something in his hand, county police spokesman Cpl. Paul Yodzis said.

Schwartz "wasn't doing anything he was being told to do," said Yodzis, describing the moments leading up to the fatal shooting. "Then something transpired, and the officer found it necessary to use deadly force."

Yodzis said he expected internal and criminal investigations to reveal the succession of events.

Fearing that their son might try to break in, Schwartz's parents had called on a caretaker to watch their house whenever they were away, Superson said. It was unclear whether that person was a paid employee or a family friend.

"The man had a history of violence, and there were ongoing problems between him and his parents," Yodzis said.

The caretaker called police about 10 a.m. to report that Schwartz was trying to break in, police said. But an officer who arrived a few minutes later could not find Schwartz, police said. Three hours later, the caretaker called police again to report that Schwartz was back in the area, and an officer again arrived at the house, police said.

The officer spotted Schwartz running into the woods but decided to wait for a K-9 unit that was en route, Yodzis said. The police dog picked up the man's scent and led Wiley and another officer to Schwartz.

Schwartz had an outstanding warrant in Howard County on a second-degree assault charge and was wanted in Baltimore County on unspecified charges, police said. Police also had been searching for Schwartz in connection with a felony burglary in Howard County, Superson said.

Schwartz's wife had been seeking a court order requiring him to keep his distance from her, saying he had thrown a brick through the window of their home in North Laurel. The case was dismissed Friday when she failed to appear in District Court.

Wiley, one of about a half-dozen K-9 officers, was placed on administrative leave pending criminal and internal investigations - routine procedure when an officer uses deadly force, Yodzis said.

The Howard County Police Department General Orders outline when officers are authorized to use deadly force.

"They shall discharge their firearms only when shooting is necessary to protect a life or when it is the only effective means to apprehend an individual who poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or citizens," the statement says.

McCrone said he does not expect Wiley to face sanctions or criminal charges.

The last police shooting in Howard occurred in January 1999, when Sgt. A. J. Bellido de Luna shot and killed John Sierra, 39, of Ellicott City outside a bar there. The man was wielding a knife and carried a suicide note.

State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon later ruled that Bellido de Luna had acted lawfully.

"Howard County's just not that kind of atmosphere where officers have to use a lot of deadly force," Yodzis said.

Sun staff writer Lisa Goldberg contributed to this article.

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