Police, Balto. Co. '99 death

Standoff was mishandled, family of woman alleges

September 19, 2002|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

The family of a Rodgers Forge woman fatally shot during a Labor Day standoff with police three years ago is suing Baltimore County, its police chief and nine officers for millions of dollars in damages.

The suit, which was filed Sept. 5, lists myriad counts for each defendant and seeks multimillion-dollar damages from each.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers were "reckless, negligent, careless and otherwise acted in a wanton fashion." It claims they did not follow police protocol during the 12-hour standoff Sept. 6, 1999, and that they should not have confronted Tambra W. Eddinger, 40, who had barricaded herself in her home with a rifle.

A month after the shooting, a prosecutor in the Baltimore County state's attorney's office said that an investigation showed that Officer Robert O. Jones was "completely justified in firing his weapon."

Baltimore County Attorney Edward J. Gilliss, who represents the county and its officers, said yesterday that he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on its claims.

"I would think that the fact that the state's attorney decided not to prosecute confirms the fact that the Baltimore County Police Department is a very professional operation," he said.

Joseph I. Tivvis Jr., the lawyer for the plaintiffs, would not comment on the case or why the family waited nearly three years to file suit.

The statute of limitations on most civil cases is three years. Lawyers will sometimes file suit near that deadline to keep options open, local attorneys said.

Irvin Eddinger, who was Tambra Eddinger's husband and is one of the plaintiffs, called police about 4:45 a.m. Sept. 6, 1999, to report that his wife was intoxicated, possibly armed with a rifle, and suicidal. He told police he had fled his home in the 300 block of Dumbarton Road after arguing with her.

For about 10 hours, police tried to persuade Eddinger to surrender, according to the lawsuit. Meanwhile, she became less and less coherent, police said at the time. Police told reporters they were afraid that she would hurt herself or others.

About 4 p.m., officers fired tear gas, nonlethal beanbags and "flash-bang" devices into the home to get Eddinger to come out. When those did not work, they entered the home, and Eddinger barricaded herself in her bedroom.

After officers broke down the top of the bedroom door, they saw her with the rifle and told her to drop it. Instead Eddinger turned toward them with her rifle, according to police, and Jones fired, hitting her three times. She was pronounced dead at Maryland Shock Trauma Center about an hour later.

She had two children, who are represented in the lawsuit by their father, Milam Walters.

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