Wild string of events ends with 2 officers hurt

One accidentally shot

second injured trying to clear way for ambulance

February 01, 2007|By Gus G. Sentementes and Annie Linskey | Gus G. Sentementes and Annie Linskey,Sun reporters

A Baltimore police officer's accidental discharge of a weapon at a chaotic crime scene yesterday prompted a wild series of events that left a colleague wounded and another officer injured when his police van was hit, sending both to adjacent beds at a downtown hospital.

The shooting occurred as officers converged on a car that hit five other vehicles on East North Avenue after a brief chase. Police said they were responding to a report that an occupant was armed with a gun.

Soon after, an officer in a police van, who was trying to block an intersection to clear a path for the ambulance carrying the wounded officer, was broad-sided at Saratoga and Greene streets by another car.

Both officers escaped serious injuries, and Paul M. Blair Jr., the president of the city police union, called them fortunate. "It just proves how dangerous police work is," he said. "When these officers leave home in the morning from their loved ones, they never know what they are going to face. It comes with the job."

The officer who was shot, David A. Hare, a four-year veteran, was hit at close range in the left front of his protective vest. He was alert and talking, and his spirits were high, Mayor Sheila Dixon said after visiting him. "He wants to get out [on the street] right now," she said.

The officer who shot Hare was identified as Claude Torres, a six-year veteran. A police spokesman said the officer was not trying to fire at the people in the car. A gun was not found inside the car, police said.

Torres has been assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of a routine internal investigation.

The Eastern District commander, Maj. John Dodson, said Hare's only injury was a three-inch welt by his sternum. Dodson estimated that Hare was less than three feet away from the officer who shot him.

"The vest stopped the round," he said. Hare was reported in good condition last night.

Police identified the officer involved in the car accident as Wali A. Salaam, a 26-year veteran. Dodson said he was in pain and was wearing a neck brace but was joking with Hare yesterday morning from his hospital bed.

Dodson said he was surprised at how well both officers are doing. "It's just amazing," he said. "When I got the call this morning, I thought it was going to be terrible."

It was another tense day for a department that has seen officers fall victim to violent crime in the city. On Jan. 9, a man shot and killed Officer Troy L. Chesley Sr. outside his girlfriend's home in Northwest Baltimore. A suspect was later arrested by police.

The events began yesterday when police officers were following a car on Greenmount Avenue about 8:40 a.m., after someone called 911 and reported that an occupant had a gun.

Alan Merritt, a West Baltimore resident who was driving on East North Avenue, said he saw two police officers pull over a car, step out of their cruisers and approach the vehicle. The officers approached the car from two sides with their guns drawn.

Merritt said it appeared that the officers were trying to order the occupants out of the car. But the car sped away, driving through traffic lights, as police cruisers tailed it for several blocks, he said.

Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman, said officers tried several times to pull the car over before it was involved in a multivehicle crash on East North Avenue between North Patterson Park Avenue and Gay Street.

Officers then converged on the car when, police said, Torres accidentally fired his gun and struck Hare.

Merritt said he lost sight of the car and the officers as they sped away but eventually came upon the scene of the multiple car crashes. He saw police dragging a person out of the car and one officer sitting on the ground with his hand on his chest.

"He didn't look like he was injured," Merritt said. "I guess he was just recuperating from the shock and the stun of the bullet hitting him."

Police took two people into custody -- a female driver and a male passenger -- but their names were not released because they had not been charged. The woman was being treated for unknown injuries at Maryland Shock Trauma Center and the condition of the man was not available.

Torres, the officer who shot Hare, was briefly suspended nearly two years ago in connection with another vehicle pursuit that turned deadly. In July 2005, Torres was involved in a brief chase of a stolen car in East Baltimore that crashed into another car carrying a man, his wife, and their daughter.

The wife, Cheryl Broadnax, died in the crash. In a subsequent internal police investigation, detectives determined that Torres had just turned on his lights and siren when the car thief accelerated, lost control and crashed into Broadnax's car.

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