Police officer shot, dies after surgery

Traffic stop in Laurel escalates into shootout

one suspect is wounded

June 22, 2005|By Grant Huang and Melissa Harris | Grant Huang and Melissa Harris,SUN STAFF

A Prince George's County police officer died yesterday afternoon, hours after a traffic stop outside a Laurel apartment complex escalated into a shootout that left the alleged gunman wounded.

Cpl. Steven Gaughan, 41, of Greenbelt was wearing body armor but not a uniform when he was shot in the arm and abdomen, police said. The 15-year veteran died after surgery at Prince George's Hospital Center.

"This is one of the hardest things for a police chief to deal with," said Prince George's Police Chief Melvin C. High. "Corporal Gaughan was just like my own son."

About 11 a.m., Gaughan and other officers attempted to stop a vehicle carrying three occupants, police said. The driver of the car attempted to elude police and pulled over on South Laurel Drive, near Route 197.

All three occupants fled. During a foot chase, one opened fire on four officers, police said. Gaughan was struck.

The other officers returned fire and wounded the gunman, who was apprehended, police said.

The two other suspects fled to a nearby apartment building, police said. One was apprehended outside, and one was taken into custody after barricading himself inside for two hours.

Police last night did not identify any of the suspects or specify the gunman's injuries. Charges are pending, police said.

The gunshots startled Queen Waddell, 24, who lives on the first floor of the Evergreens apartment complex with her two children.

"I looked out the window and saw two men, an officer dressed in civilian attire and another gentleman, running and firing at each other," she said. "They just came around the corner, just beyond the playground."

Shortly after watching the men disappear, the SWAT team knocked on Waddell's door and used her apartment for surveillance, she said.

Gaughan and the gunman were flown to Prince George's Hospital Center. The gunman was in stable condition last night, the hospital said.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson announced Gaughan's death at a late-afternoon news conference at the hospital.

"Corporal Gaughan woke up every morning and went to work to make lives safer for everyone," Johnson said in a statement. "My heart is broken."

Gaughan was married and had two young children.

Anne Swank, 67, a neighbor of Gaughan's, said the officer grew up in Boston and frequently worked on home improvement projects. "He was a very busy family man," she said.

Gaughan was assigned to a four-man, special-assignment team based at the Beltsville police station.

Police declined to say why officers pulled over the vehicle near the apartment complex.

Many nearby residents were at work during the incident and returned to see police cordons around Route 197 and yellow caution tape circling the entrances to their homes.

Gaughan was the son of a retired Boston police officer and has three uncles on the force there, the Boston Herald reported. "He comes from a long line of police. They are a well-respected family and this is terrible news," Tom Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolman's Association, told the newspaper last night.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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