City teen detained in police shooting

Gunfire from across street strikes 4-year city veteran

suspect's kin questioned

July 22, 2002|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Police last night were questioning a man they think was involved in a brazen, sniper-like shooting of an undercover officer Saturday night that occurred as the man's cousin was being arrested across the street on drug charges.

Officer Christopher Houser, 29, who was shot in the right shoulder, remained in critical condition last night at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after two operations for internal bleeding. Police officials said they were told that Houser is not in danger of dying or losing his right arm, as doctors had feared.

"He's been through a lot, but the prognosis is very good," Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said yesterday afternoon. "It appears he's going to live."

FOR THE RECORD - A wrong address was given for Neil E. Glover. He lives in the 2000 block of N. Fulton Ave.

Just before Norris spoke to reporters yesterday, police picked up Neil Edward Glover in the 2000 block of N. Fulton Ave. for questioning. Glover, 18, was seen near where four shots were fired, about 80 yards from the porch where Houser and other officers were standing at 3529 W. Belvedere Ave., Norris said.

As of last night, no charges had been filed against Glover, who lives in the 3600 block of W. Belvedere Ave.

Police also were searching for Glover's cousin, Elliott Twan "Tech" Reed, 18, who ran away -- wearing jeans, a white shirt and handcuffs -- after the shooting. Police think the gunman might have been trying to come to Reed's aid during his drug arrest.

"This is an outrage, and the public should be just as upset," Norris said yesterday. "To have someone fire a shot from across the street at police officers doing their jobs, just arresting someone for drug sales -- it's outrageous."

The shooting, in a rough area of Northwest Baltimore, marks the third time in a year and a half that a city officer has been shot in an apparent attempt to thwart an arrest, Norris said.

In March 2001, Officer Michael J. Cowdery was killed during an arrest on Harford Road after a man rounded the corner and opened fire.

Howard "Wee" Whitworth was sentenced to life without parole for the killing.

The same month as Cowdery was shot, Officer Willie D. Grandy was ambushed and shot in the leg as he arrested a 16-year-old on a marijuana charge in East Baltimore. Three months ago, a jury declared that it could not decide whether defendant Donnell A. Ward shot and wounded Grandy.

Mayor Martin O'Malley, who has made reducing the city's homicide rate a top priority, met at the hospital yesterday with police officials and Houser's wife and parents, who are from Pennsylvania.

Holding two fingers close together, the mayor said: "An officer came this close to losing his life last night for doing exactly what all of the citizens of this city -- black, white, rich and poor -- want our police officers to do, which is to make it a safer place where drug dealers don't rule the corners.

"We need to rise up as a people and help the police solve this case."

In a city with nearly 150 homicides this year, Saturday's incident was particularly bold, officials said. It happened about 11:40 p.m. as Houser -- a four-year veteran and member of a Northwestern District "flex" squad that focuses on trouble spots -- stood on the porch, his suspect in handcuffs.

Suddenly four shots came from Wilton Heights Avenue, apparently from a 9 mm pistol, Norris said. One bullet hit Houser in his right shoulder, just above his protective vest. It punctured a lung and pierced an artery before exiting his back. He was flown to the hospital, where doctors performed surgery to resume blood flow to his right arm. Around 6 a.m. yesterday, they operated a second time to stop bleeding in his lung.

Martina Ford, whose home is two doors from where Houser was shot, was on her porch Saturday night. She said she heard a pop pop pop sound and officers shouting: "He got shot! He got shot!"

"It could have been me, it could have been my kids," the 26-year-old mother of three said yesterday. "He was just doing his job, trying to make it safe for the kids."

Sheilah Blue, 48, lives on Wilton Heights Avenue in a handsome frame house with an American flag out front and bright lights to ward off drug dealers.

The gunshots woke her up. Usually, she said, she has to call 911 to tell the police, but not this time. In seconds, sirens were blaring as police converged from all directions.

Blue, an administrative assistant at a brokerage house, was still shaken yesterday. "People around here just don't know what it means to be a cop. There is no respect for life," she said.

The neighborhood has mainly two-story rowhouses, some tidy and others boarded up with trash all around. The house where Houser was shot has a tattered "Keep out" sign and a grill out front, behind a rickety metal fence.

A block away, Denise Robinson, a 39-year-old nursing assistant, is raising two young relatives. She said the latest violence didn't make her feel any less safe than she already does.

"This, I tune out," she said, pointing to the street. "I live in there. You have to recondition yourself to certain aspects of life. Once I get home from work, I shut my door."

Others on the block said they saw little or no difference between Houser's shooting and other shootings that generate no headlines.

"Every day people get shot. The fact it was a cop don't make much difference to me," said Calvin Fisher, 35.

In his neighborhood, he said, there is little respect for the blue uniform: "You got to give respect to get it."

The Fraternal Order of Police has offered $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment in Houser's shooting. Metro Crime Stoppers has offered an additional $2,000.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call Detectives David Peckoo or Thomas Martin at 410-396-2100.

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