Three Maryland state troopers investigating a report of burglaries in a Suitland business area were shot and wounded and a burglary suspect was killed in an exchange of gunfire early yesterday, state police in Forestville said.
The suspect, whose identity had not been established yesterday, grabbed a gun from one of the state troopers who had apprehended him on the 4800 block of Suitland Road, state police said. The man fired all six shots from the service revolver, and was then shot twice by one of the troopers.
The unidientified man, who police say was in his early 20s, died at Prince George's General Hospital two hours after the 1:30 a.m. incident.
Probationary trooper Peter Savoy, 29, of Bowie, whose gun was wrested from him, was in fair condition at Prince George's General Hospital with a bullet wound in his adbomen.
Trooper Donald W. Knott, 25, of Crofton, was in serious condition at Washington Hospital Center with a bullet wound in his chest and a bullet wound in his adbomen. Knott was flown to the hospital by a U.S. Park Police helicopter.
Trooper Herman B. Bethel, 26, of Baltimore, who shot the man, was in fair condition at Prince George's General Hospital with bullet wounds in his right shoulder and right arm.
State police gave conflicting versions of the shooting yesterday, first saying that the gun had been taken from Savoy's button-shut holster, then that the gun may have been grabbed from Savoy's hand.
It also was unclear why the troopers began wrestling with the man, and how many troopers were invloved in the scuffle with him before the shooting. State police spokesmen Bill Clark and Cpl. Jerry Eiseman said that only troopers Savoy and Knott had wrestled with him, but Bethel said from his hospital room that he also had struggled with the man before the exchange of gunfire.
Otherwise, Bethel and the police spokesmen agreed on this account of the incident:
Two state police cars originally answered a call about disorderly juveniles at Suitland and Silver Hill Roads. But when the cars arrived at the intersection, no juveniles were to be seen.
A citizen then flagged down Bethel's car and told Bethel that the windows of three stores on Silver Hill Road near the intersection had been smashed, and that a man was standing near them.
Bethel said he saw someone wearing a bloody t-shirt near the stores, but as he approached, the man fled.
Bethel radioed the information to Savoy and Knott, who were in a patrol car around the corner from the three stores whose windows had been smashed, police said. They then spotted a man crouched in front of a bank on Suitland Road. The man was bleeding. "We've got him," they radioed to Bethel.
While Knott used the car's police radio to call an ambulance for the man, and Bethel drove around the corner to the scene, Savoy got out of the car and put his hand on the man's shoulder, Bethel said. "He was trying to get some help for the man," Bethel said. "And he didn't want the man to go away."
But the man started fighting with Savoy, Bethel said, and Bethel and Knott got out of their cars to aid Savoy.
Bethel said the four were wrestling on the ground -- Bethel, holding the man's feet, Knott, trying to grab the man's arms, and Savoy, trying to grab the man's shoulders.
While Savoy was near the man's head, the man grabbed the trooper's service revolver and fired -- first at Knott, then at Savoy, then at Bethel, who returned his fire, police said.
The stores whose front windows had been smashed are Cycle City, Louis Beauty Salon and Star Vacuum Cleaners, which are next to each other on the 4700 block of Silver Hill Road. Nothing was removed from the stores, Clark said.
An autopsy of the man is scheduled today by the Baltimore medical examiner. Police said the man did not carry identification, and they are comparing his fingerprints with police files to attempt to determine his identity.
The troopers will be placed on leave for injuries, Clark said.Savoy, the probationary trooper, graduated from the Maryland State Police Academy in Pikesville on Feb. 2 and had been riding with another trooper to gain on-the-job experience before taking over a patrol car by himself.