12/13/2006

Wounded Md. trooper clinging to life; suspect fatally shot

By Nick Shields and Annie Linskey, Sun reporters
The Baltimore Sun

A Maryland state trooper suffered life-threatening injuries yesterday when police closing in on a robbery suspect traded shots with the man - a recently released drug offender who had previously been accused of ramming a police car to avoid arrest.

Tfc. Eric D. Workman underwent two surgeries after being shot during a pre-dawn raid at a Baltimore County home. He was in critical condition early today in the intensive care unit at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Workman, 36, was with a task force that was seeking to arrest Steven Tyrone Jones, who was wanted in a home invasion last week in Carroll County. Police said Jones - who had been out of prison for less than six months - shot at the officers, who returned fire, killing the man.

A shot struck Workman, who was wearing a protective vest, under his arm. The bullet pierced one of his lungs.

He was operated on by Shock Trauma's chief physician - who had befriended Workman after treating him eight years ago when he was hit by a car while on duty.

The shooting brought leaders of Maryland's law enforcement community to the Baltimore hospital, anxiously awaiting word on their colleague's condition.

"He is known as one tough trooper," said State Police Superintendent Col. Thomas E. "Tim" Hutchins.

Workman, a highly decorated nine-year veteran of the agency, was leading the investigation into the home invasion that occurred Thursday night in Eldersburg. Police said two men in ski masks broke into the home of a man who worked at a check-cashing company, bound four people there with handcuffs and duct tape, and robbed them.

One of the robbers then drove the employee to his workplace in Randallstown and forced him inside at gunpoint.

But the man's relatives alerted authorities, and Baltimore County police rescued him and arrested a suspect. They obtained an arrest warrant for Jones, charging him with 60 offenses in last week's home invasion.

Workman and members of the Regional Warrant Apprehension Task Force searched several homes early yesterday and gathered information leading them to a house in the 5500 block of Forest Park Ave. in the Edmondson Heights area of Baltimore County, just west of the city line off Baltimore National Pike.

There, they saw a van believed to belong to Jones and telephoned the house, the home of Jones' father.

About 5 a.m. the occupants of the home let officers inside and told them the suspect was upstairs, police said. The officers, wearing clothing bearing the word police, identified themselves and displayed badges as they climbed the stairs, police said.

The 38-year-old suspect came out of a bedroom and immediately opened fire, according to police. Two officers returned fire, but Workman apparently was not one of them, police said.

Workman was at the bottom of the stairs and was struck by one bullet, police said. One of the officers, a paramedic, provided medical care to the trooper and the suspect, police said.

Jones was pronounced dead at the scene by arriving medics. Police said they recovered the handgun he used.

State police, who are leading the investigation with assistance from Baltimore County police, could not say how many shots were fired.

Jones had been living at the house since August, after being released from prison, said his father, Michael Rock. Yesterday, Rock pointed to six bullet holes at the top of a staircase and a circular area of tan carpet soaked with blood. Several small spots of blood dotted two white walls near the bullet holes. Rock stepped a few feet past the staircase into his son's room, where he pointed to two more bullet holes.

"Upstairs sounded like a war in Vietnam," Rock said.

Rock said he opened the door to let in about six police officers. He said his fiancee, Josie Ray, and his 7-year-old daughter were downstairs. He said police then walked upstairs toward his son's room.

"They said, `Steven Jones, we have a warrant for your arrest,'" Rock recalled. "I heard two shots go off, and then I heard a round of firing upstairs."

He said his fiancee and daughter rushed out of the house, and Workman came down the steps and collapsed near his front door.

"I look back and Steven Jones, he was laying on his back, laying on the staircase, his eyes wide open," Rock said. "If he wasn't dead, he wasn't far from it."

Rock said that as officers came down the steps, Workman said he was hit.

"At that time, the officer that was standing over top of [Jones], I saw him shoot my son at least four times, if not three," Rock said. He said an officer picked up a handgun from near his son.

State police spokesman Greg Shipley disputed the father's account, saying, "Police returned fire until [Jones] stopped firing. That is what we do know."

"Where everyone is and where they ended up is still being reconstructed. It is clear officers' lives were in jeopardy," Shipley said.

Jones' criminal record dates to 1986, when he was sentenced to a year in jail on charges of theft, eluding a police officer and failing to remain at the scene of an accident, records show. In 1989, he was sentenced to five years in prison on a burglary conviction.

He was arrested several times on drug charges in 1993 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to distribute drugs, according to Baltimore City prosecutors.

In January 2002, Jones was arrested by Baltimore County officers who obtained a warrant after an undercover officer saw him selling drugs in the Woodlawn area, court records show. The undercover officer said that Jones refused an order to get out of his car and put his hands up, instead ramming the police car and speeding away with his lights off.

Drug vials and caps were found in the abandoned car - along with Jones' probation card and court papers showing that he had been arrested and charged with selling heroin to a city police officer a month earlier. Charges of attempting to elude police, failing to remain at the scene of an accident and possessing drug paraphernalia were placed on an inactive court document.

In 2003, Jones was sentenced to five years in prison, after being charged with drug possession in the city, according to Elizabeth Bartholomew, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation. Jones was released in June from the Eastern Correctional Institution and was to remain under "intensive" supervision through September 2008, Bartholomew said.

David R. Blumberg, chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission, said last night that Jones had not been paroled but that his release was "mandatory" under state law, based on credits earned through his conduct in prison.

He also had complied with the terms of his probation, reporting to his probation officer twice a month, Bartholomew said, and he was also visited by a probation officer at his home once a month.

The home address that police listed for Jones is in the 3500 block of Langrehr Road, off Liberty Road, less than a half-mile from the check-cashing business that his alleged accomplice is accused of trying to rob.

Workman is the officer at his barracks in charge of apprehending sometimes dangerous fugitives. He has worked at the Westminster barracks since 2002. Police said he is the first trooper from Carroll County to be wounded on duty by gunfire in at least two decades.

Troopers at the Westminster barracks were shaken but went about their business yesterday.

"We go out there every day knowing something like this can happen," said Sgt. Doug Reitz, Workman's supervisor. "But when it occurs, you're not really prepared for it. It's a hundred times worse when it's somebody you're closely associated with."

Workman's recent investigations of a western Carroll County farm, where pigs were found wandering to and from the property, prompted state and federal charges of animal cruelty and selling contaminated meat against the farm's owner and his son. For his work in that case, Workman shared an award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with state agriculture and health officials, according to Sue duPont, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.

He had previously been treated at Shock Trauma after being struck by a car in 1998 while flagging down speeders on the Capital Beltway. Workman was hurled 60 feet and landed on another trooper who was trying to break his fall, according to a Washington Post article.

That year, he received a certificate of recognition for saving a suicidal person on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and another for his work in a shooting investigation, state police said. In 2000 and last year, he received the governor's citation for bravery for disarming a suspect armed with a knife.

Yesterday, Workman's father and stepmother were at Shock Trauma, as was his brother - an officer with the Fairfax County, Va., police - said Shipley, the state police spokesman.

Workman is divorced and has no children.

Dozens of police officers and relatives visited the hospital. Hutchins, the state police superintendent, was there and said he had called Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm also visited.

During a news briefing in the morning, Shock Trauma's physician in chief, Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, said the trooper had suffered "significant injury to his left lung, spleen and kidney."

"This is not over by a long, long shot," the surgeon said. "We've got to get him through the next hours and days."

Workman's second surgery later in the day was to stop bleeding in his chest. "He needed it," Scalea said afterward. "He's very sick."

Asked whether any additional surgery was scheduled for yesterday, Scalea said: "God, I hope not."

Sun reporters Laura Barnhardt, Julie Bykowicz, Laura McCandlish and Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

Copyright 2006 The Baltimore Sun Company
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