Armed Assailant Was Shot By Police

Catherine Brown was a cousin of Maryland's lieutenant governor.
Catherine Brown was a cousin of Maryland's lieutenant governor. (AP)
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By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Montgomery County police said yesterday that an armed assailant killed his former girlfriend and was fatally shot by police at her home outside Gaithersburg, the first account of what happened in the shooting Saturday night.

The woman, Catherine Brown, was being held in her garage against her will, police said. The former boyfriend, Michael K. Wilson of Hagerstown, was shot "multiple times by police," police spokeswoman Lucille Baur said.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Baur declined to say who shot first and whether one or more responding officers fired rounds.

Brown was a cousin of Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown's. The lieutenant governor said in a statement yesterday that he learned of his cousin's death Sunday, shortly after he arrived in Denver for the Democratic National Convention. Brown said he was returning to Maryland "with a heavy heart" to be with his family.

"I ask that everyone keep my family in their prayers," he said in a statement.

Brown, 40, taught first grade at the Beauvoir School on the grounds of Washington National Cathedral in the District. Co-workers described her as a warm, caring person and a vital member of the school community.

Wilson, 44, worked on the grounds of the cathedral as a private security guard, and he was described as a "highly regarded" employee.

Police were dispatched to Brown's home in Montgomery Village about 10:30 p.m. after receiving a report that a man was trying to force a woman into a house in the 9400 block of Vineyard Haven Drive. Police also had information that Brown "had mentioned a gun," according to a police news release. Neighbors have since said in interviews that Wilson struck Brown while the two were in the front yard.

The first officer arrived within three minutes and was soon joined by four others, police said. It took at least several minutes for them to assess the situation. At some point, Baur said, Brown's garage door was raised, although it was unclear how or by whom.

Two officers approached the garage, Baur said, and within seconds of making "visual and verbal contact" with Wilson, shots were fired.

Baur said yesterday that the officers were faced with "a life-threatening situation to both an innocent citizen and the officers themselves."

Police identified the responding officers as Sandra Moss, a nine-year veteran of the force, and Kenneth Moreau, who was hired in 2005. Both have been placed on routine administrative leave during the investigation.

Neighbors said Brown and Wilson were dating when she moved into the house this summer. They said that she had begun to fear him and that she had asked them to call the police if they saw his vehicle.

Baur confirmed that the relationship ended this summer. Baur also confirmed an account from a neighbor who said she once called the police after spotting Wilson's vehicle. Brown was out of town at the time, and officers did not see Wilson's vehicle, Baur said.

Baur declined to say whether the officers acted appropriately Saturday because the case is still under investigation.

Speaking generally, Geoffrey P. Alpert, an expert on police shootings and a professor at the University of South Carolina, said that when officers confront a person who is armed and intent on shooting someone else, they can justifiably shoot the gunman.

At the same time, officers are trained to try to defuse and "slow down" chaotic situations, Alpert said.

"It gets very complicated," he added.

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