Trooper stabbed in hands while fending off attacker

Suspect thought to be suicidal

July 23, 2011|By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

A Maryland state trooper was stabbed in the hands as he fought off a knife-wielding man Saturday morning after responding to a car crash call on the Capital Beltway near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Trooper Byron Tribue, 26, was treated and released from Fort Washington Hospital on Saturday morning, police said, while the suspect — 54-year-old James A. Howard of Hyattsville — was held under guard at the same hospital, where police took him for evaluation.

Maryland State Police have charged Howard with first- and second-degree assault, second-degree assault on a law enforcement officer in the performance of his duties, carrying a deadly weapon with intent to injure, and attempting to disarm a law enforcement officer. Charges will be served on Howard upon his release from the hospital.

It's the second assault on an officer within a week. A 20-year-old man, described as having a grudge against the Baltimore Police Department, fired a rifle at a patrol officer responding to a domestic violence call Tuesday. The officer was not seriously injured, and the suspect was taken into custody and charged with attempted murder.

Maryland State Police said Howard appeared to have provoked the attack in the hopes it would cause the trooper to use deadly force against him — a situation also known as "suicide by cop."

A call from Howard came into the Forestville Barracks in Prince George's County about 6:30 a.m., police said, reporting that he had been "involved in a single-vehicle crash" on the southeast side of the Capital Beltway's inner loop, just before Interstate 295. His car was caught in a guardrail there.

Trooper Tribue, who has been on the force for a year and a half and is engaged to be married in September, had just started his shift and was sent to investigate the call. The trooper drove up to Howard, who was standing outside his vehicle, and — while seated in his patrol car — asked him if he was OK, police said.

Tribue then turned to grab his hat from the back seat of his patrol car, while Howard "ran around to the driver's side of the patrol car, pulled what appears to be a kitchen-type knife with a seven-inch blade, and immediately began attacking the trooper through the open window," according to a police statement.

Tribue radioed for help and fought off Howard from his driver's seat, where he was trapped, unable to open his car door, police said.

An unknown man pulled over and stepped in to help at one point, jumping on Howard's back, and allowing Tribue to free himself from the patrol car "and escape further, and likely more serious, injury," said spokesman Greg Shipley in a statement.

Within moments, additional state troopers arrived, along with Prince George's County police, who together subdued the suspect. The citizen left without identifying himself, police said.

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