Car­jack­ers found but es­cape as cop ac­ci­den­tally shoots him­self

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Rec­tor and Car­rie Wells

Af­ter an armed car­jack­ing in Fed­eral Hill, Bal­ti­more po­lice used re­cent trends to pre­dict — cor­rectly — that the sus­pects would head south to Cherry Hill.

But as two de­tec­tives spot­ted the stolen Honda CRV in the neigh­bor­hood and pre­pared to make an ar­rest, one of them ac­ci­den­tally shot him­self in the wrist, and the sus­pects es­caped.

What was al­most a policing suc­cess — a vic­tory based on good in­tel­li­gence and crime anal­y­sis —slipped away.

The events of late Wed­nes­day were de­scribed by po­lice on Thurs­day af­ter­noon to cor­rect an ear­lier ver­sion of what hap­pened pro­vided shortly af­ter the in­ci­dent. Po­lice pre­vi­ously said that the de­tec­tive was shot by a flee­ing sus­pect and that the de­tec­tives had not fired their guns.

“It did not take very long for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to be­gin to gather enough phys­i­cal ev­i­dence to sus­pect that, in fact, it was an ac­ci­den­tal dis­charge ver­sus gun­fire by a sus­pect,” said Deputy Com­mis­sioner Ja­son John­son. “How­ever, we re­ally wanted to be cau­tious and make sure that we gath­ered suf­fi­cient

ev­i­dence be­fore we made a pub­lic an­nounce­ment.”

John­son said the wounded de­tec­tive, a 15-year vet­eran of the depart­ment and 25-year mil­i­tary vet­eran who has not been iden­ti­fied, was re­cov­er­ing from his in­juries Thurs­day and had yet to be in­ter­viewed by po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors “due to the trauma of the sit­u­a­tion.”

The shoot­ing, dur­ing which other of­fi­cers ap­plied a tourni­quet to stanch the wounded de­tec­tive’s bleed­ing, will be in­ves­ti­gated by the depart­ment’s Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tions Re­sponse Team. The de­tec­tive, who is in good con­di­tion, will re­ceive ad­di­tional train­ing be­fore re­turn­ing to duty, John­son said.

The sec­ond de­tec­tive in the ve­hi­cle, a 25-year vet­eran of the depart­ment who also has not been iden­ti­fied, “at least ini­tially be­lieved that the gun­fire came from out­side the car,” John­son said. He re­mains on ac­tive duty.

The episode be­gan about 10:40 p.m. Wed­nes­day in the 200 block of Grindall St., where two women were leav­ing their ve­hi­cle and were ap­proached by three armed males, po­lice said. The women were robbed of their purses and ve­hi­cle but were not in­jured.

In re­cent months, po­lice have iden­ti­fied a trend in which stolen ve­hi­cles, of­ten taken by ju­ve­niles, wind up in Cherry Hill. As of last week, car­jack­ings were up 46 per­cent city­wide com­pared to this time last year, and up 233 per­cent in the South­ern Dis­trict. Po­lice have called halt­ing the trend a pri­or­ity.

So, when a report of the Grindall Street car­jack­ing came through on the ra­dio, Ci­tiWatch op­er­a­tors were mo­bi­lized to be­gin track­ing the ve­hi­cle through cam­era feeds, and the depart­ment’s Fox­trot he­li­copter was de­ployed to as­sist.

About 40 min­utes later, the de­tec­tives spot­ted the stolen CRV in the 1000 block of Bethune Road. As the of­fi­cers stopped to ap­proach the ve­hi­cle as it parked, one of the car­jack­ers jumped out of the pas­sen­ger’s side and be­gan run­ning, po­lice said.

It was about the same time that the de­tec­tive, in the pas­sen­ger’s seat of the un­marked po­lice ve­hi­cle, shot him­self, po­lice said. The driver of the stolen ve­hi­cle then es­caped as well, po­lice said.

The bul­let that wounded the de­tec­tive was found in the de­tec­tives’ ve­hi­cle, and his firearm “had one less round than he should have had,” John­son said. The doors of the ve­hi­cle had not been opened be­fore the shoot­ing and there was no shat­tered glass.

On Thurs­day, po­lice played a record­ing of po­lice ra­dio chat­ter from the time, which cap­tured what T.J. Smith, a po­lice spokesman, called the “trauma” of the mo­ment.

“We need a medic! We have an of­fi­cer shot!” a de­tec­tive can be heard yelling.

Po­lice also showed a video of one of the sus­pects jump­ing out of the stolen ve­hi­cle and run­ning.

John­son said three in­di­vid­u­als con­sid­ered “per­sons of in­ter­est” in the car­jack­ing were be­ing ques­tioned about the in­ci­dent, but no ar­rests have been made.

Early Thurs­day morn­ing, be­fore it was clear the of­fi­cer had shot him­self, Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis said Cherry Hill had be­come a hot spot for car­jack­ers to take the cars they had stolen.

“When our car­jack­ing vic­tim was at­tacked in Fed­eral Hill and her car was taken, the South­ern Dis­trict pa­trol of­fi­cers and de­tec­tives did a fan­tas­tic job of de­ploy­ing in this area be­cause they know based on re­cent pat­terns and trends that car­jacked ve­hi­cles have been taken to this area af­ter car­jack­ings,” Davis said.

In cor­rect­ing the story Thurs­day af­ter­noon, John­son and other po­lice of­fi­cials also fo­cused on the po­lice work that led to the de­tec­tives lo­cat­ing the sus­pects.

Smith said de­tec­tives, pa­trol of­fi­cers and com­man­ders are “aw­fully fa­mil­iar” with the Cherry Hill area and some of the in­di­vid­u­als who fre­quent the area, who they sus­pect may be in­volved in rob­beries and car­jack­ings.

Maj. Kim­berly Bur­rus, com­man­der of the depart­ment’s dis­trict de­tec­tive unit, which in­ves­ti­gates car­jack­ings and rob­beries city­wide, said her team iden­ti­fied a pat­tern link­ing car­jack­ings in the South­ern Dis­trict, in­clud­ing in Fed­eral Hill, to the Cherry Hill area and is re­spond­ing to it.

She said there is “an ac­tual nexus” be­tween a car­jack­ing that oc­curred in Fed­eral Hill on Oct. 7 — in which a sus­pect was ar­rested with a hand­gun and a mask — and the one on Wed­nes­day night.

“We are mak­ing the con­nec­tions,” she said, in­clud­ing by look­ing into the sus­pect’s “as­so­ci­ates.”

Bur­rus said one of the rea­sons car­jack­ings — which in­volve vic­tims essen­tially be­ing robbed of their ve­hi­cles — are up is that mod­ern, parked ve­hi­cles are more dif­fi­cult to steal with­out keys.

“The ve­hi­cles nowa­days are very hard to steal,” she said, “so the only way to steal them is to com­mit a car­jack­ing.”

Smith said that with the trend of ju­ve­niles com­mit­ting car­jack­ings in the city, peo­ple wor­ried about their safety should fol­low the lead of the two women car­jacked in Fed­eral Hill.

“Some of these young peo­ple re­ally op­er­ate as if they have noth­ing to lose, and it’s bet­ter to re­lin­quish your prop­erty than fight with them,” he said.

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