Baltimore officer shot while tracking robbery suspect
By Nick Shields and Jennifer McMenamin, Balimore Sun reporters
Yesterday, they were there for Baltimore County Police Officer David T. Garner, a member of the canine unit who was wounded while tracking a robbery suspect who had taken refuge in a backyard shed.
Garner, a decorated veteran officer, was shot outside the shed when police cornered the man, who they believe had tried to rob a grocery store near busy Belair Road less than an hour earlier.
Police eventually found the suspect dead inside. They did not say how he died.
Because fog prevented the officer from being airlifted to the shock trauma center, police closed streets and otherwise cleared a path so that Garner could be rushed by ambulance to the Baltimore hospital. There, he joined two law enforcement colleagues who had been hospitalized for treatment of gunshot wounds in recent, unrelated incidents.
"For all of us, it just rings home how dangerous and how serious this job is," said Cole B. Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police. "Every day, 24-7, our folks are out there responding to and dealing with some pretty incredible circumstances. It is scary, in this short time frame, to have three officers dealing with such serious gunshot injuries.
"While it shakes you in that regard, to have a colleague who's hurt, it also strengthens everyone's resolve that we're doing the right thing."
At Shock Trauma, Garner, like the other two officers, was operated on by a team led by Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, the hospital's chief physician. He said Garner, a 39-year-old father of two, arrived at Shock Trauma at 8:45 a.m. yesterday with severe gunshot wounds that injured his right chest, lung, liver and diaphragm. He had fractured ribs, and a bullet exited his right side.
Scalea said that state police Tfc. Eric D. Workman , 36, who had been shot early Tuesday, "made some progress" the previous night but was "still pretty sick."
Baltimore Police Officer Momodu Gondo, 24, was being treated at Shock Trauma for three bullet wounds to the back that occurred when he was held up in front of his city home Dec. 5.
"Doctors are superstitious people. Bad things tend to come in threes," Scalea said yesterday. "It is obviously emotional, and very difficult for everyone on my staff. I'm getting tired of it."
Gondo was released from Shock Trauma later yesterday, a spokeswoman said.
Yesterday's shooting came as Baltimore County police were working to crack a series of grocery store robberies. Police had sought the public's help in October in identifying a pair of men believed to be involved in a string of five supermarket robberies that seemed similar. A sixth robbery occurred about 6 a.m. Nov. 7 at a Super Fresh in Rosedale.
On Oct. 9, two gunmen went into the Mars Supermarket in the 8600 block of Belair Road in the Perry Hall area and forced the manager to open the safe, police said. The suspects tied the victim's hands and forced the manager to lie on the floor during the robbery.
Four similar robberies occurred at other grocery stores - all Super Fresh or Mars supermarkets - between 6:15 a.m. and 7:05 a.m. in Arbutus, Rosedale, Woodlawn and Reisterstown in the first three months of the year.
Two suspects in all the robberies wore dark clothing with ski masks or bandanas, police said. A third man was involved in three of the robberies, police said.
As part of that investigation, undercover police were staking out the Super Fresh in Perry Hall Square Shopping Center yesterday. A store employee ran out into the parking lot about 7 a.m. and said a robbery was in progress, police said.
Officers quickly arrested one suspect but a second escaped, said Cpl. Mike Hill, a county police spokesman. Officers, with the help of the canine unit, tracked a second man to a shed off nearby Cottington Road.
When officers approached, gunfire erupted from the shed, wounding Garner, police said. At least one officer returned fire, Hill said.
Garner, who according to police was wearing a ballistic vest, was hit in the arm and abdomen.
For a time, it was unclear whether the man inside the shed had been shot or was even alive. Heavily armed tactical officers surrounded the shed.
Police cordoned off the neighborhood. Perry Hall Elementary, Joppa View Elementary, Perry Hall Middle and Perry Hall High schools were placed on lockdown. One school, Tabernacle Christian, was closed, and parents of youngsters who were there for an early-morning care program were called to pick up their children.
Later in the morning, police set off tear gas. Around noon, they found the suspect dead.
Police did not immediately identify the man, saying relatives had not been notified. They did not describe his injuries. An autopsy was to be conducted.
Police said yesterday that they were questioning the man they apprehended after yesterday's attempted robbery, which they said appears to be linked to the earlier holdups.
"The physical descriptions matched. ... How they went into the store was similar. The time frame was similar," said Hill, the police spokesman. "The fact that there were no cars in front of the place or close to it seems similar because in the other ones we don't know how they got there or got away.
"With all that, the preliminary information leads us to believe that they are connected."
Police were also investigating the confrontation that ended with one suspect dead and Garner wounded.
Garner's father and an uncle were Baltimore City police officers, a spokesman for that agency said. His late father, Thomas G. Garner, joined the city police in 1967 and retired as a sergeant in 1995, according to the spokesman, Officer Troy Harris. The uncle, Bruce Garner, joined the department in 1975 and retired in 1999, Harris said.
David Garner joined the county Police Department in 1991. He spent four years in the Garrison precinct before being transferred in December 1994 to the department's canine unit, where he has worked since.
His dog, a German shepherd named Nikko, was not injured yesterday, police said.
Garner has received numerous departmental honors, including an award this year for valor.
Both Garner and his wife, Beth, a nurse, were honored by the police department for performing CPR that paramedics credited with saving the life of the Garners' neighbor.
David Garner was off duty and working in his driveway on May 10, 2005, when a man summoned him to help a neighbor, who was not breathing and was slumped over his front porch with no pulse.
The officer called 911 and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation alone for eight minutes before Beth Garner arrived home and began to help, a county police official said.
Garner's wife was with him yesterday at the Shock Trauma Center. He has young children who were in school yesterday morning.
The officer was "alert and awake" when he was brought in, said Baltimore County Police Col. William A. Kelly. "Officers are now rallying around him," he said.
Lt. Deanna Chemelle, of the Woodlawn precinct, who said she grew up with Garner, was among about 30 officers at the hospital by noon yesterday.
She described Garner as "a great family man who loves his job," adding, "Everyone is very upset."
His condition last night was serious but stable, according to a trauma nurse.
Cindy Rivers, a Shock Trauma spokeswoman, said that the hospital has never, in her 16 years there, had three officers recovering from gunshot wounds at the same time.
At a noon news conference, Scalea, the surgeon, would not compare the medical cases of Garner and Workman, the wounded state trooper, saying they have "different sets of injuries."
Discussing whether additional surgery would be needed for Garner, Scalea said, "I don't know. It is way too early to tell."
He complimented the efforts that Garner's colleagues made in speeding him to the hospital. The ambulance was escorted by police cars. Other officers shut down streets in the county and city to ensure a clear route on streets normally crowded during the morning rush hour.
"They did a fabulous job getting him here," Scalea said. "You get him here as fast as you can. It's called the golden hour for a reason. If you can't fly, you drive faster."
Medical status of the officers treated at Shock Trauma:
Momodu Gondo, 24. The Baltimore police officer was shot outside his home shortly after midnight Dec. 5. One suspect is in custody; another is being sought.
Condition: Serious; released from Shock Trauma yesterday.
Eric D. Workman, 36. The Maryland trooper first class was shot early Tuesday by a man he was attempting to arrest in a Baltimore County home. The suspect was shot and killed by police.
David Garner, 39. The Baltimore County police officer was shot yesterday in a county neighborhood while searching for a robbery suspect. The suspect was found dead in a nearby shed.
[Source: Cindy Rivers, spokeswoman, Maryland Shock Trauma Center]
Facts on victim
Name: Officer David T. Garner
Residence: Baltimore County
Family: Garner and his wife, Beth, a nurse, have two daughters. His late father, Thomas G. Garner, retired in 1995 as a sergeant after 28 years with the Baltimore City police force. An uncle, Bruce Garner, retired in 1999 after more than 20 years with the city police.
Career: Graduated from Perry Hall High School in 1985 and Towson State University in 1989. Completed the Baltimore County Police Academy in 1991. Assigned to Garrison precinct from 1991 until 1994. Moved to the K-9 Unit in December 1994.
Awards: Honored as Garrison precinct Officer of the Month, January 1992 and May 1993. Earned department certificates of appreciation, 1994, 1995 and 1996; unit citations, 1998 and 2001; critical incident com-mendation, 2001; silver star, 2001; distinguished contribution award for helping to establish the department's bloodhound program, 2005; valor award for saving the life of his neighbor, who had a heart attack, 2006; Pope John Paul certificate of appreciation, 1995; Ches-apeake Search and Rescue Dog Association "Lifeline" Awards, 2003 and 2004.
Copyright 2006 The Baltimore Sun Company
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