Man charged with attempted murder of officer, after gun battle

Franklin James Gross faces seven charges

  • Officers stand by at the scene of a vehicle crashed into a light pole.
Officers stand by at the scene of a vehicle crashed into a light… (Anthony Conroy, Baltimore…)
November 28, 2010|By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun

A 30-year-old man accused of shooting a police officer early Saturday, setting off a gun battle with police near downtown nightclubs, has been charged with attempted murder.

Franklin James Gross, of the 1900 block of Woodlawn Drive, faces seven charges including attempted first- and second-degree murder, assault, possession of a handgun and use of a handgun during a violent crime, according to Detective Kevin Brown, a police spokesman. Gross remains hospitalized and is in police custody.

Police say Gross shot and seriously wounded the officer after an exchange of gunfire on North Calvert Street. The officer was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. "The officer is in stable condition and won't officially be named because he is being classified as a nonfatal shooting victim and we don't [identify] victims," said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Law enforcement officials, however, identified the officer as Todd A. Strohman, a one-year veteran of the force.

Guglielmi said Gross was questioned by detectives before being charged midday Sunday. The suspect sustained multiple gunshot wound and remains at Shock Trauma.

The incident began just after 1 a.m. at East Baltimore and North Calvert streets.

According to an earlier account from Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, Central District commander Maj. Dennis Smith spotted a man walking awkwardly with his pants sagging to one side. Bealefeld called it the "classic stance of an armed man."

Smith radioed an officer closer to the man. It was unclear if the officer spoke to Gross before the man began shooting at the officer. The officer was struck above his bulletproof vest. The bullet ricocheted off his clavicle and became lodged in his chest.

Several tactical officers on patrol in the area shot at the gunman, police said, firing at least 20 bullets in one city block. Bealefeld couldn't say how many other people were on the street at the time.

The officers have been patroling on weekend nights and cracking down on the nightclubs and bars since last summer, when a number of robberies and violence were reported.

The latest shooting happened just before closing time, when there are typically a large number of people on the streets.

Gross fled on foot before getting into a Toyota Camry with two other people. The car headed north, and eventually crashed into a light pole and fire hydrant at Calvert and Franklin streets. The back window, trunk and bumper were peppered with about a dozen bullet holes. The other occupants had not been charged Sunday.

Gross was apprehended at Mercy Medical Center, where he sought treatment for his wounds.

Officials said that police appeared to have acted appropriately in firing upon the suspect because he was armed and had committed a violent crime.

"This individual pulled a gun and fired on a police officer," Guglielmi said on Saturday after the incident. "If he did that to a cop, imagine what he would do to an everyday citizen who can't defend himself. We have an obligation to neutralize that threat."

A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also said the officers appeared to act appropriately, though the incident, like all police-involved shootings, would be investigated. Police protocol calls for an investigation by homicide detectives and a review by the state's attorney's office.

Gross has been convicted of three felonies, according to court records. A police source said he was on parole for armed robbery at the time of this shooting.

Gross was convicted in 1998 of assault and sentenced to four years in prison, but a judge suspended three years and 10 months of the term. He was convicted in March 2008 of being a felon in possession of a handgun and sentenced to five years in prison, with time starting from the time he was arrested in May 2006.

In May 2008, while still in prison on the gun charge, he was convicted of a separate armed robbery charge and sentenced to 12 years in prison, with all but six years suspended. He had been paroled, police said.

The incident led to street closings and searches, aided by a police helicopter, that turned up a semiautomatic handgun, according to police. Bealefeld said police found the gun near the initial confrontation.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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