Baltimore County Says Wounded Officer Was Likely Struck By Friendly Fire
Baltimore, MD – The Baltimore County Police Department announced Friday that the officer shot in the line of duty the prior day was likely a victim of friendly fire.
The wounded officer was identified in a police department press release as Baltimore County Police Officer First Class Tabitha Hays, the daughter of Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino.
Chief DiPino arrived in Maryland on Thursday evening to be with her daughter at the University of Maryland Medical Center - Shock Trauma Center where she is recovering from surgery for a gunshot to her abdomen, ABC News reported.
The press release from the Baltimore County PD on May 3 sought to set the record straight on what happened when officers responded to a 911 call from a home in the 3000-block of Linwood Avenue at about 1:30 p.m. on May 2.
“The Department provided misinformation shortly after the incident occurred, indicating that the suspect fired a weapon at the officers upon entering the home,” the press release said. “Further review of body-worn camera footage and additional evidence now reveals that the suspect picked up a firearm, did not follow officers’ commands to put down the weapon, and pointed the gun at the officers, causing the officers to fire upon the suspect.”
Investigators discovered the suspect’s gun was not loaded and he had not fired any shots during the incident.
“We don’t know how Officer Hays was shot, but she was not shot by the suspect,” Baltimore County Police Corporal Shawn Vinson told reporters, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Police do not suspect that there was a second gunman involved.
The press release said that 76-year-old Robert Uhl Johnson had called police and reported an “unknown subject” waving a gun at him inside his home.
When officers arrived, Johnson was seated in a chair facing the front door, and he told the officers there was nobody else inside his home.
The officers ordered Johnson to put his hands up and began to enter the home, according to the press release.
That’s when Johnson lowered his right hand to his thigh and picked up a pistol, which he pointed at officers.
“I’m sorry I have to do this,” Johnson said just before four officers opened fire on him, according to the press release.
Officer Hays was wounded by gunfire to her upper body during the incident.
Officers on the scene did not believe the wounded officer could wait for a helicopter to arrive to airlift her to the hospital, so she was loaded into an ambulance and transported with a police escort.
Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence Sheridan told reporters at a press conference on Thursday afternoon that the wounded officer was alert and conscious, with good vital signs, when she was taken into surgery.
The press release said Officer Hays remained in stable condition after surgery.
Investigators later discovered that Johnson had left his will and last requests out for the police to find, according to the police department’s press release.
The four officers who shot at Johnson have been identified by the Baltimore County PD as Officer Hays, Officer J. Hummel, Officer A. Burns, and Officer J. Deford.
All of the officers have been placed on paid administrative leave as is protocol for officer-involved shootings.
The police department will continue to investigate to determine how Officer Hays was wounded.
The Sarasota Police Department put out a statement late on Thursday afternoon that said that officer who had been wounded was the daughter of the Sarasota police chief, WWSB reported.
Chief DiPino was herself an officer with the Baltimore County Police Department until 1988, when she left that department to join the Ocean City Police Department on the beach in Maryland.
She rose through the ranks to become the first female police chief of the Ocean City PD in 2003.
Chief DiPino left Maryland to be sworn in as police chief in Sarasota in 2013, the Sarasota Patch reported.
Upon receiving the information her daughter had been wounded in the line of duty, Chief DiPino raced north to be by her daughter’s side.
The Sarasota police have asked that the chief’s privacy be respected while she is with her daughter and family, WWSB reported.
The shooting of yet another female Baltimore County police officer hit too close to home on the day after Officer Amy Caprio’s murderer was found guilty by jury.
Chief Sheridan said the wounded officer was a member of the same Parkville Precinct as Officer Caprio.
"Unfortunately I’ve gotten these calls too many times,” the chief said. "We have probably one of the best medical systems in the world, and they take special care of our officers... We’re praying that they do their work again here and our officer comes through.”
Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski faced reporters with the police chief and also referenced the similarities to Officer Caprio’s murder.
“Here we are one year later from the unfortunate incident involving Officer Caprio,” Olszewski said. “It’s a tragic reminder of what our law enforcement community has to face day in and day out. We are praying for our officer who is in surgery.”