A Richmond man was fatally wounded early yesterday in a gun battle with FBI agents attempting to arrest him at his home in connection with operation Highroller, the latest fake fencing operation here.
The man was identified as Pete Holland. He died at Chippenham Hospital in Richmond after a 1 a.m. exchange of gunfire in which a Henrico County, Va., detective suffered two gunshot wounds.
The FBI said agents were attempting to arrest Holland on a charge of selling stolen postage stamps valued at $3,545 to an undercover policeman here.
Including the attempt to take Holland into custody, law enforcement officers have served at least 12 of the 16 warrants issued in connection with Highroller, a higher-stakes version of last year's Sting and G.Y.A. (Got Ya Again) operations.
The incident also appeared to be the first time shots were fired during an attempt to make an arrest in any of the three fake fencing operations.
Meanwhile, law enforcement officials said they have no present intention of revealing the identity of the undercover officers involved in Highroller.
"Unlike Sting, where we were dealing with petty thieves, the identity of our agents and undercover men must be protected," said FBI chief Washington agent Nick F. Stames.
Asked if the men who pulled off the area's third major law enforcement run fencing operation in a year were in danger, Assistant U.S. Attorney E. Lawrence Barcella said, "There's always that possibility and it's a possibility there's no reason to overlook.
"We're dealing with people who have more access to the type of people who might want to prevent" a trial from taking place, said Barcella, deputy chief of the prosecutor's major crimes division.
Barcella said the identity of the FBI agents and Metropolitan Police Department officers who operated out of a suite in the Shoreham Americana Hotel might have to be revealed "if there are any trials, but that's a few months away."
Thus far arrests have been made in Washington, Richmond, Rochester, N.Y., and Fayetteville, N.C., in the operation in which law enforcement officials paid $169,000 for alleged stolen property, including antiques of great value taken from the Capitol and a truckload of liquor. The property is valued at $2 million, Barcella said.
In making a distinction between the highly publicized Sting operation the most recent one the FBI's Stames said that "With the Sting you're talking about street thieves - there's no class."
"Here," he added, "you"re dealing in bigger and better things."
In the Sting, police officers posing as Mafia fences did business with local thieves who would bring in such merchandise as citizens band radios and typewriters, "and we could say 'here's $20, get lost,'" Stames said.
"With Highroller, we'd negotiate for a couple of weeks for a deal," he said. "You can bring somebody down (in price) just so much and then he'll go to somebody else. Some of these were $20,000 or $30,000 deals."
In the Richmond incident, the FBI said that agents and Henrico County police had staked out Holland's apartment house and were waiting for him when he returned about 1 a.m.
When Holland arrived, "he opened fire on the arresting officers," an FBI statement said. "The arresting officers returned fire and Holland was shot."
Lt. E. T. Montgomery of the Henrico County police said it was his understanding that when FBI agents identified themselves. Holland turned to leave the building, then turned back toward the agents, firing.
Det. Robert McRae of the County police was shot in the leg and shoulder, and apparently was unable to use his weapon, Montgomery said. "McRae was reported hospitalized and in satisfactory condition last night.
The FBI said that the stamps in connection with which Holland had been charged were reported stolen in the burglary of a post office in Newark, Ohio, on Nov. 26, 1976.