By Matt Zapotosky and Martin Weil
Sunday, March 13, 2011; 11:14 PM
A man was shot and critically wounded Saturday night by Prince George's County police during what a law enforcement source described as a gun battle involving dozens of shots exchanged in a busy neighborhood.
Police opened fire after an officer was nearly hit by a bullet fired by the suspect, a spokesman said. The shot struck part of the officer's equipment; he was not injured. Three or four dozen shots might have been fired, said the law enforcement source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
The incident occurred about 8:15 p.m. at Queens Chapel and Chillum roads in the Mount Rainier/West Hyattsville section of the county. The area is a busy residential and commercial district a few blocks southeast of the West Hyattsville Metrorail station.
The incident marked the second time in eight days in which someone was seriously or fatally wounded in Prince George's by police.
Officers had received a call Saturday night that someone was throwing bottles at cars and pounding on store windows, said Cpl. Evan Baxter, the spokesman.
An additional account, provided Sunday by the law enforcement source, said the man had been pounding on the windows of a Popeyes fast-food restaurant. The source also said a plainclothes officer summoned uniformed officers to the scene.
When one of the uniformed officers arrived, the man fired at him.
The source said the man opened fire for no apparent reason.
Baxter said a bullet fired at the officer struck a spare ammunition magazine that he carried on his belt. The source who spoke Sunday said the shot tore out a substantial amount of the officer's gun belt.
Baxter said the magazine might have saved the officer's life.
The source said other officers arrived, and three of them exchanged fire with the man.
By the source's estimate, the suspect fired a dozen or more shots, and police fired as many as 30. The suspect was struck at least three times in the chest, the source said.
The suspect, whom police did not identify, was taken to a hospital in critical condition.
On March 6, Prince George's police officers shot and killed a man who was threatening residents with a handgun in a Landover neighborhood near FedEx Field, police said.
Three days before that, a county police officer shot and wounded a suspect who backed toward him in a stolen car.
The suspect in that case suffered wounds that were not life-threatening and was released from a hospital and charged with assault and related counts.