For the third time in 10 days, police officers flooded a waiting room of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center to anxiously await news of a colleague who had been shot and seriously injured.
Yesterday, they were there for Baltimore County Police Officer David T. Garner, a member of the canine unit who was wounded while tracking a robbery suspect who had taken refuge in a backyard shed.
Garner, a decorated veteran officer, was shot outside the shed when police cornered the man, who they believe had tried to rob a grocery store near busy Belair Road less than an hour earlier.
Police eventually found the suspect dead inside. They did not say how he died.
Because fog prevented the officer from being airlifted to the shock trauma center, police closed streets and otherwise cleared a path so that Garner could be rushed by ambulance to the Baltimore hospital. There, he joined two law enforcement colleagues who had been hospitalized for treatment of gunshot wounds in recent, unrelated incidents.
"For all of us, it just rings home how dangerous and how serious this job is," said Cole B. Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police. "Every day, 24-7, our folks are out there responding to and dealing with some pretty incredible circumstances. It is scary, in this short time frame, to have three officers dealing with such serious gunshot injuries.
"While it shakes you in that regard, to have a colleague who's hurt, it also strengthens everyone's resolve that we're doing the right thing."
At Shock Trauma, Garner, like the other two officers, was operated on by a team led by Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, the hospital's chief physician. He said Garner, a 39-year-old father of two, arrived at Shock Trauma at 8:45 a.m. yesterday with severe gunshot wounds that injured his right chest, lung, liver and diaphragm. He had fractured ribs, and a bullet exited his right side.
Scalea said that state police Tfc. Eric D. Workman, 36, who had been shot early Tuesday, "made some progress" the previous night but was "still pretty sick."
The trooper, who was shot while working with a task force attempting to arrest a suspect in a robbery and Carroll County home invasion, remained in critical condition last night.
Baltimore Police Officer Momodu Gondo, 24, was being treated at Shock Trauma for three bullet wounds to the back that occurred when he was held up in front of his city home Dec. 5.
"Doctors are superstitious people. Bad things tend to come in threes," Scalea said yesterday. "It is obviously emotional, and very difficult for everyone on my staff. I'm getting tired of it."
Gondo was released from Shock Trauma later yesterday, a spokeswoman said.
Yesterday's shooting came as Baltimore County police were working to crack a series of grocery store robberies. Police had sought the public's help in October in identifying a pair of men believed to be involved in a string of five supermarket robberies that seemed similar. A sixth robbery occurred about 6 a.m. Nov. 7 at a Super Fresh in Rosedale.
On Oct. 9, two gunmen went into the Mars Supermarket in the 8600 block of Belair Road in the Perry Hall area and forced the manager to open the safe, police said. The suspects tied the victim's hands and forced the manager to lie on the floor during the robbery.
Four similar robberies occurred at other grocery stores - all Super Fresh or Mars supermarkets - between 6:15 a.m. and 7:05 a.m. in Arbutus, Rosedale, Woodlawn and Reisterstown in the first three months of the year.
Two suspects in all the robberies wore dark clothing with ski masks or bandanas, police said. A third man was involved in three of the robberies, police said.
As part of that investigation, undercover police were staking out the Super Fresh in Perry Hall Square Shopping Center yesterday. A store employee ran out into the parking lot about 7 a.m. and said a robbery was in progress, police said.
Officers quickly arrested one suspect but a second escaped, said Cpl. Mike Hill, a county police spokesman. Officers, with the help of the canine unit, tracked a second man to a shed off nearby Cottington Road.
When officers approached, gunfire erupted from the shed, wounding Garner, police said. At least one officer returned fire, Hill said.
Garner, who according to police was wearing a ballistic vest, was hit in the arm and abdomen.
For a time, it was unclear whether the man inside the shed had been shot or was even alive. Heavily armed tactical officers surrounded the shed.
Police cordoned off the neighborhood. Perry Hall Elementary, Joppa View Elementary, Perry Hall Middle and Perry Hall High schools were placed on lockdown. One school, Tabernacle Christian, was closed, and parents of youngsters who were there for an early-morning care program were called to pick up their children.
Later in the morning, police set off tear gas. Around noon, they found the suspect dead.