By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun
5:47 AM EST, November 27, 2010
A Baltimore police officer who confronted an armed man on a downtown street early this morning was shot and seriously wounded, and backup officers engaged the suspect in what the police commissioner described as a running gun battle up North Calvert Street.
Police said that at least three members of the tactical unit, among the best trained in the use of firearms, fired at least 20 shots along a single city block, hitting the suspect several times on a street crowded with patrons of downtown clubs and bars.
The wounded man initially managed to escape in a silver-colored Toyota Camry occupied by two of his friends. The car crashed into a light pole at Calvert and Franklin streets and police found the suspect inside Mercy Medical Center seeking treatment for his wounds. The car was peppered with about a dozen bullet holes in the back windshield, trunk and bumper.
Police shut down numerous streets north of the Inner Harbor after the shooting, which occurred shortly after 1 a.m. at North Calvert and East Baltimore streets. A police helicopter hovered over the two crime scenes and police said they recovered a semiautomatic handgun and arrested the two occupants of the car and the man who they said shot the police officer.
Names of the suspects were not released pending the filing of criminal charges. The suspected gunman was being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. The president of the police union, Robert F. Cherry, said the suspected gunman had done prison time for armed robbery.
The wounded officer’s name was not immediately released. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said the officer had joined the force less than a year ago and was assigned to patrol on the midnight shift in the Central District, which includes downtown.
Bealefeld said the bullet struck the officer in the upper left shoulder, above his protective vest, glanced off his clavicle and is lodged in his chest. “We are optimistic he will make a full recovery,” the commissioner told reporters outside Shock Trauma. The officer’s fiancé, mother and father were at his bedside this morning.
The shooting occurred shortly before bars and nightclubs closed for the night, when streets north of the Inner Harbor can get crowded as people leave en masse. Last year, numerous robberies and violence near the harbor and farther north in Mount Vernon and Mid-Town Belvedere forced police to saturate the area with officers on weekend nights. Police also have cracked down on nightclubs and bars deemed to be troublesome.
Few problems were reported this summer, but police keep a heavy presence Friday and Saturday nights between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Officers shut East Baltimore Street near The Block to traffic and keep a close eye on people leaving clubs.
Maj. Dennis Smith, the commander of the Central District, was in his cruiser this morning watching patrons leave when he saw a man who Bealefeld said exhibited “the classic stance of an armed man” — pants sagging to one side and walking awkwardly.
But the commissioner said Smith was in heavy traffic and could not reach the man quickly. He radioed ahead to another patrol officer who was closer to investigate. Bealefeld said the officer got close to the man and may have exchanged a few words with him. Police earlier had said the officer ordered the man to put his hands in the air.
Bealefeld said the man took out a gun and shot the officer once. The tactical officers, who are deployed every weekend downtown as part of the increased security, opened fire on the man, who ran north on Calvert Street exchanging gunfire.
It was not immediately clear how many people were on the street at the time. But Bealefeld said most of the shots were fired at fairly close range. The suspected gunman managed to get to the car, which was driven north and crashed into a light pole and fire hydrant at North Calvert and Franklin streets.
Police arrested the suspect at Mercy Medical Center and later transferred him to Shock Trauma. It was not clear this morning where police arrested the two other men who had been in the car. Bealefeld said police found the gun near the initial confrontation, but officers were searching a parking garage and a lot owned by The Baltimore Sun at North Calvert and Centre streets.
Police taped off Franklin Street between Calvert and St. Paul streets as they examined the Toyota Camry, which had its lights on and its driver’s-side door opened. Police would not address the bullet holes in the back of the car, which could indicate police fired on it as it sped away.
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