Balto. County officer kills man in theft of police car

Shooting follows chase in Lutherville

January 04, 2002|By Gerard Shields and Dennis O'Brien | Gerard Shields and Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

In an early-morning shooting that rattled a quiet suburban neighborhood, a Baltimore County police officer killed a 21-year-old man who had stolen a police cruiser and triggered a chase across Lutherville.

Damien J. Fox of Upper Marlboro was shot after he crashed the cruiser into two parked cars, rammed police cruisers that had boxed him in and refused to obey an order to get out of the car, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The chase ended shortly after 3 a.m. in front of Larry Goss' house at 1022 Jamieson Road in Lutherville. Goss was awakened by the sound of gunfire and looked out his window.

"It was pretty confusing seeing three officers in the middle of the street with their guns drawn, pointing [them] at another police car," Goss said.

Fox, whose last known address is the 100 block of Big Chimney Branch, was shot by Officer Joseph C. Smith, a 21-year veteran of the department. Police said Smith fired several shots, though it's not clear how many. Police also did not know how many times Fox was hit.

The cruiser in which Fox was riding contained a police shotgun, said Lt. Kevin Novak, a department spokesman. A preliminary investigation showed Fox was not carrying a weapon, he added.

The incident began about 3 a.m., when Fox was pulled over, accused of speeding on Seminary Avenue and Charmuth Road. After stepping from his car, Fox attacked Officer Benjamin P. Yohe, who had been operating a radar gun, and jumped into Yohe's cruiser, which was parked nearby, police said.

"It was really rather violent," Novak said. "The officer was knocked down."

Fox headed west on Seminary Avenue, dragging Yohe, who had tried to reach into the cruiser window to stop the car, for several yards. Yohe, a 31-year veteran, used his radio to alert other officers in the area to be on the lookout for the patrol car, whose overhead lights were flashing, police said.

Two officers in separate cruisers saw Fox cross York Road on Seminary Avenue and began chasing him. He turned left onto Jamieson Road, rode across a lawn, crashed through a white wooden fence and knocked down a street sign, police said. The cruisers boxed in Fox after he struck two parked cars.

Fox refused to obey repeated orders to get out of the car, and Smith's "observations of the suspect's actions" led him to fire several rounds into the patrol car in which Fox was sitting, Novak said.

Yohe was taken to Greater Baltimore Medical Center, where he was treated for minor cuts and bruises and released.

The shooting will be investigated by the department's homicide division, which will send its findings to the state's attorney's office for review, Novak said. Smith is on routine administrative leave while the investigation continues.

County court records show that Fox has an extensive criminal history dating to November 1999, when he was charged with robbery after he followed a dancer from a club in Washington.

The dancer, Michelle Patricia Duncan, pulled into the Woodlawn Precinct about 3 a.m. after calling police on her cellular telephone. Officers who followed Fox's car found a knife on the seat next to his right leg, according to a police affidavit.

A passenger in the car told police that Fox had followed Duncan with the intention of robbing her, court records show.

Duncan said yesterday that she was afraid of Fox.

"It's bad to say, but I feel slightly easier that he's not out there," she said.

Fox was convicted of robbery and sentenced by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Kathleen Cox to seven years with all but nine months suspended, according to court records.

Cox agreed to recommend that Fox serve his sentence on work release, but officials at the Baltimore County Detention Center later told the judge that he was terminated from a work detail "for not following directions."

In a letter Aug. 31, 2000, Fox asked the judge to reduce his sentence, saying that he was sorry for his crime and that he planned to go to college. Fox wrote that he "has recognized the impact of his hideous actions towards those directly related to this offense."

He was released but arrested in August on a marijuana possession charge. That led probation officials to recommend that Fox be sent back to prison to serve out his term. A warrant for his arrest was issued in November. The trial in the marijuana case was set for Jan. 15.

Court records also show that he was indicted by a Baltimore County grand jury Dec. 20 on eight counts of burglary and attempted burglary. Fox was accused of breaking into two apartments in the 8500 block of Heathrow Court in Fullerton.

Russell Neverdon, Fox's attorney in the 1999 robbery case, described Fox yesterday as an articulate but troubled youth. He said Fox had planned to enter the military when he was released from jail.

"Structure and discipline where something that he himself acknowledged he needed in his life," Neverdon said.

Attempts to reach Fox's family yesterday were unsuccessful.

Homeowners on Jamieson Road were shaken by the incident, even though some were not immediately aware of what had happened.

The stolen cruiser crashed into the fence in the front yard of Edith Reiter's house at 900 Jamieson Road, but she didn't wake up.

Yesterday afternoon, Reiter, 73, looked over the splintered wreckage and a bent street sign on her lawn. Muddy tire tracks showed the cruiser's path.

"I'm flabbergasted," said Reiter, who sleeps in the back of the house. "He had to be going really fast to take out that fence. We're lucky he didn't hit the house."

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