FBI agent who wounded Pasadena man involved in fatal shooting in 2000

Fugitive murder suspect was killed in Laurel

March 10, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

The FBI agent who shot an unarmed Pasadena man by mistake March 1 was involved two years ago in the fatal shooting of a fugitive murder suspect at a Prince George's County apartment, an FBI official confirmed yesterday. The fugitive was not armed at the time, but investigators later said he had a loaded gun nearby.

Special Agent Christopher Braga, 35, was one of three law enforcement officers involved in the February 2000 death of fugitive Donald Lee Thompson Jr., who was wanted in a West Virginia killing. The shooting was ruled justifiable by the U.S. Justice Department, said Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr., a spokesman for the Baltimore field office.

Braga, a five-year veteran of the bureau and part of a highly trained FBI SWAT team, is under review now for the shooting nine days ago of 20-year-old Joseph C. Schultz.

Schultz was shot in the face with an M-4 rifle after FBI agents searching for a bank robbery suspect pulled over the car that Schultz's girlfriend was driving. Authorities have described the case as one of mistaken identity: Schultz was at a store where agents expected to find the suspect, and his baseball cap and girlfriend's car loosely fit the description authorities had for the man wanted in connection with a Feb. 20 bank robbery.

Schultz remained at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Hospital officials said that he had improved and was in fair condition.

His girlfriend, 16-year-old Krissy Harkum, of Pasadena was not wounded, but her family says she is traumatized by the events.

Braga has been on paid administrative leave since the Schultz shooting. His attorney, Andrew C. White of Baltimore, said yesterday he could not comment on Braga's involvement in the 2000 shooting in Laurel, first reported by The Washington Post.

In that case, authorities tracked Thompson, 26, who was wanted in West Virginia on murder and kidnapping charges, to an apartment on Seventh Street in Laurel. Several FBI agents and local police officers went inside, and authorities said three officers -- two FBI agents and a Prince George's County sheriff's deputy -- fired at Thompson, killing him. The names of the three officers were never publicly disclosed.

Thompson was not holding a weapon when he was shot but had a loaded firearm nearby, investigators with the Prince George's County police determined. Thompson was considered highly dangerous because he was accused of shooting to death a West Virginia man and wounding the man's girlfriend.

FBI shootings are rare; statistics released by the bureau last week show that the FBI's 11,000 agents intentionally fired their weapons only 11 times during 2001.

Before March 1, the last FBI shooting involving the Baltimore field office was on Dec. 18, 2000, when bank robbery suspect Peter J. Gebbia, 32, of Lothian, was fatally shot at an Eastern Shore motel after he pulled what turned out to be a pellet gun. The agent who shot Gebbia has not been identified.

As in all FBI shootings, the Anne Arundel case is being reviewed by investigators from FBI headquarters in Washington, whose findings also will be reviewed by the Justice Department. County police are conducting their own investigation, which will be reviewed by local prosecutors.

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