Robbery suspect shot while driving at officer, Montgomery, Md., police say

Officer Marcus Dixon reacts to the heat as he stands guard at the spot where the shooting occurred. The getaway car is in the background.
Officer Marcus Dixon reacts to the heat as he stands guard at the spot where the shooting occurred. The getaway car is in the background. (Michael S. Williamson/the Washington Post)
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By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Montgomery County police officer shot and critically wounded a bank robbery suspect Tuesday morning in a Damascus cornfield as the suspect drove his car at the officer at the end of a chase, authorities said.

Officers were sent to the PNC bank branch in the 26200 block of Ridge Road about 10:30 a.m. to investigate a reported robbery, said Capt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery police spokesman. Starks said witnesses saw the suspect jump the counter at the bank, grab some cash and flee. Those witnesses, he said, pointed officers in the suspect's direction, and one even followed the suspect briefly in his own vehicle.

Officers spotted the car, a red Toyota Corolla, and chased it. The suspect turned down Bowman Acres Lane, a small street of large, single-family homes that dead-ends at a cornfield, Starks said. The suspect, having no obvious way out, drove up a gravel road and into the cornfield, Starks said. As officers worked amid a cloud of dust to set up a perimeter, the suspect drove at one of them, Starks said, and the officer, who was outside his patrol car, opened fire.

"Officers were trying to set up a perimeter using a good amount of caution," Starks said, remarking that the officers' visibility was obscured by all the dust. "He was trying to run the officer over, allegedly."

Police declined to name the officer or the wounded suspect.

It is unclear how many times the suspect was hit. The Corolla traveled out of the cornfield and into a yard across the street, where it came to rest. Starks said the officer fired "multiple" shots, but he wouldn't say how many.

The suspect was flown to a nearby hospital in "extremely grave" condition, authorities said. Officers on the scene had to administer CPR, Starks said. The officer who fired, he said, was not struck or injured.

Investigators were searching the car and cornfield Tuesday afternoon. The rear bumper of the Corolla was damaged, and Starks said officers made contact with the bumper during the chase.

The aftermath of the chase created an odd scene in the quiet Damascus subdivision. Neighbors said the suspect could not have been from the area or he would have known that there was no escape once he turned down Bowman Acres Lane. One neighbor said it was lucky Tuesday was so hot because children who normally play outside were indoors.

"I think he went down the wrong street, that's for sure," said Dorothy Seder, a resident. "It just dead-ends into the corn."

Starks said police have connected the man to a robbery at another PNC bank, in the 13000 block of Middlebrook Road in Germantown, about an hour before the robbery on Ridge Road. He said the man appears on surveillance video captured during both incidents.

Police said the officer who fired his gun has worked with the department for about 11 years and is assigned to the Germantown-based 5th District. As is standard procedure, he has been placed on paid administrative leave while police investigate.

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