An off-duty Baltimore police officer shot an alleged car thief in the leg late Friday night after catching the man breaking into his SUV, which was parked at a lot near East Chase and North Charles streets, a popular section of Mount Vernon.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center for treatment. Police said he is listed in stable condition and is expected to be charged with auto theft, assault and related crimes.
The officer has been placed on administrative duty pending the results of an investigation by police internal affairs and the homicide division, which handles all police-involved shootings, said spokesman Anthony Guglielmi. Homicide has already determined, however, that alcohol was not a factor.
Police declined to identify the officer, but said his name would be released next week after giving his family time to prepare for media attention. He is described as a 10-year police force veteran who works in the sex offense unit of the criminal investigation division.
The incident Friday night is the fourth police-involved shooting so far this year, down from eight during the same period in 2009. Overall last year, police were involved in 24 shootings, most the result of a struggle for the officer's gun, Guglielmi said.
He credits the reduction in such shootings to a program, implemented in 2007, that trains officers to have better control of their weapons.
According to Guglielmi, the officer involved in Friday's incident was eating dinner at an area restaurant, when he heard a car alarm go off just before midnight. He went outside to investigate and discovered it was his car alarm.
The officer approached the vehicle, parked in a community lot behind North Charles Street, and found the front driver's-side window smashed and the suspect inside the car, headed out the rear passenger-side door.
The officer identified himself and told the suspect to "stop," Guglielmi said. But the man allegedly reached for something, and the officer shot one round, hitting the suspect in his right knee. The officer was not injured.
The suspect, in his 30s, was found to have "a screwdriver on his person," Guglielmi said. He's expected to be hospitalized for several days.
The shooting occurred in the first block of E. Chase St., near the historic Belvedere Hotel, where several violent incidents — armed robberies, fights, stabbings and a 2008 shooting —led police to temporarily shutter the Suite Ultralounge bottle club late last year, calling it a "public nuisance."