Two police officers were shot Saturday morning in what officials are calling an ambush while tracking down a suspect in West Baltimore who had assaulted two women earlier in the day.
Police did not name wounded officers Saturday afternoon but said a 44-year-old officer, a 17-year veteran of the department, suffered three bullet wounds - including a serious one to the abdomen, which is not believed to be life-threatening. Another officer, who is 42 years old with three years' experience, suffered a minor wound to the buttock and was released from the hospital.
The suspect, who was shot twice by one of the officers, was taken to a local hospital and is expected to survive, said police spokesman Donny Moses.
Police had no plans to release any of the names on Saturday, Moses said.
As the more seriously injured officer underwent surgery at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III called the suspect a "maniac" who spent the morning engaged in mayhem across the city. The officer was out of surgery Saturday night and is expected to survive, according to Moses.
The 34-year-old man, who police said has a long arrest record, first forced himself into a home in the 3200 block of Lake Ave. in Northeast Baltimore, brandishing a handgun, Bealfeld said. He threatened a woman and, before leaving, fired a shot either into the air or into the ground.
Someone called 911, and police put out a description of the suspect and his red Ford Explorer.
At 11 a.m., another 911 call about domestic violence came in, this time from the 2400 block of Harlem Ave. When an officer arrived, a woman there told him she had been assaulted and the suspect had fled. The officer used the victim's cell phone to call the suspect and persuaded him to return to the scene.
The suspect arrived in the Explorer. When the officer confronted him, the man opened fire with a 9 mm handgun, hitting the officer in the buttock. The officer was able to take cover and call for backup.
A responding officer pulled up behind the SUV. The suspect fired through the driver's side window, hitting the officer three times - in the chest, the abdomen and the left arm. The officer was able to get out on the passenger side and fire at the suspect, hitting him twice - in the thigh and the arm.
"If these officers were not there to stop this maniac, who knows what he would have done?" Bealefeld said angrily, calling the shooting an "ambush" and describing the officers as "incredible heroes."
Charges are pending against the suspect, Bealefeld said, adding that he will likely be charged with two counts of domestic assault and two counts of attempted murder.
Richard P. Dutton, the senior administrative physician at Shock Trauma, said the officer shot in the torso needed hours of surgery for his wounds.
Both officers were wearing protective vests.
"The way these police officers reacted says a lot," Bealefeld said, "acting in the face of a hail of gunfire, that they could still do what they did to make the people of this city safe."
When a reporter asked Bealefeld about the suspect's condition, the commissioner said, "I have very few apologies to make about his condition."
Dozens of police officers responded to the shootings. Patrol cars lined Edmondson Avenue and police used yellow crime tape to block off a number of streets in the area, forcing motorists into detours.
Neighbors and passers-by huddled on the corners, trying to see what investigators were doing inside the barricades.
Frederica Davis and her sister, September, were setting up jewelry to sell on their Edmondson Avenue porch Saturday morning when they heard gunfire. They were about a block away from the scene.
"I just heard shots and I dropped down," Frederica Davis said, adding that she saw people running. "It was just bam, bam, bam, and then another round, bam, bam, bam."
Davis said she knew the suspect and called him a "pretty good guy."
But, she added, "A gun is not the answer. When is they gonna realize that?"
Bealefeld said officers believe the woman at the first house was the suspect's former girlfriend, and the other woman his current partner.
"He has a pretty extensive arrest history," Bealefeld said. "We know he's been involved in other domestic violence incidents."
Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was in New York on Saturday, issued a statement about the incident on her way back to the city.
"Today's incident is a tragic reminder that we must rid our city of illegal guns. I thank God that our two brave police officers are in stable condition and encourage everyone to pray for their speedy recovery," she said. "I am horrified that anything of this magnitude has happened to officers providing for the safety of this city. Their heroic actions today saved countless citizens from further harm."
It has been months since an officer was shot in the line of duty in Baltimore.