By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 29, 2010; B01
A maintenance man at a Forestville apartment complex shot and killed a home invader Monday morning after the intruder forced the man into his apartment and fired a gun at him, police and law enforcement sources said.
The maintenance man was able to retrieve his own gun inside his apartment and return fire, fatally wounding the intruder, law enforcement sources said. Police said that the maintenance man had not been charged criminally and that the shooting in the 4400 block of Rena Road appeared to be self-defense.
"The victim . . . had a weapon inside the home that he used to shoot the suspect," said Cpl. Mike Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Prince George's County Police Department. "We believe that the victim had every right to defend himself."
The shooting occurred on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court, ruling in an Illinois case, confirmed the fundamental right of all Americans to bear arms.
Law enforcement sources said the shooting appeared to be justified -- a classic case of an armed homeowner shooting an intruder. It remains unclear, however, how the maintenance man obtained his gun or whether he possessed it legally. Investigators said they were still exploring that.
Police said they were searching for two other suspects who fled the scene in a red, two-door Honda. A police helicopter buzzed overhead Monday afternoon, searching for the suspects and their car.
Police did not immediately identify the maintenance man or the invader, saying that doing so might hamper their ability to catch the suspects. They also said they were still in the process of notifying the dead man's next of kin.
The incident started just before 9 a.m., when the maintenance man came upon the intruder trying to force a woman into her apartment, law enforcement sources said. Concerned for the woman, the maintenance man asked what was going on, and the intruder pointed a gun at him and forced him into his own apartment nearby, the sources said. Officers were called to the scene for the report of a home invasion, police said.
What happened next remains unclear, but law enforcement sources said that the intruder fired at the maintenance man and that the maintenance man retrieved his own gun and returned fire. When officers arrived, the intruder had been shot and wounded, and the maintenance man was unharmed, police said. The intruder was taken to a hospital, where he later died, police said.
Sources said the maintenance man and the intruder appeared to be strangers, but investigators were still exploring any possible connection.
Prince George's State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey (D) said the investigation was ongoing and he could not say whether authorities were likely to charge the shooter.
"Generally speaking," he said, "people do have a right to defend themselves and others in their homes, including deadly force in some circumstances."
The maintenance man declined to comment as he left Prince George's police headquarters Monday evening. While he was being interviewed by detectives, his mother granted a brief interview and said, "God had a shield of protection all around him."
"Hallelujah, praise God that no one else got hurt," she said. "Prayers been going up, and we just thank God."
The mother, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect her family from the suspects who remain at large, said of her son: "You . . . write that he's a hero. That's all we know. That's all we have to say."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.