Montgomery County police officers fatally shot a 22-year-old Wheaton man and seriously injured his companion yesterday morning when the men allegedly aimed their guns at the officers who had come to check reports of a disturbance at a fast-food restaurant, police said.
Bernard A. Burke Jr., 22, was pronounced dead in the parking lot of the Stained Glass Pub on Layhill Road in Wheaton, around the corner from a Gino's restaurant where the incident started, police said.
Robert W. Stansbury, 20, was admitted to Surburban Hospital, where he was listed in good condition yesterday afternoon, with a bullet wound in the arm and a graze on his head.
Burke and Stansbury are neighbors on the 2600 block of Urbana Drive, which is located several blocks from the pub.
Police said yesterday that three officers, responding to a call for assistance, opened fire when the suspects, who were hiding in the bushes, pointed guns at the policemen. A witness said that the ensuing gunfire "sounded like the Fourth of July."
A police spokesman said yesterday that the suspects never actually opened fire on the police. The three officers involved have rotinely been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of a departmental investigation.
Police said they will file murder charges against Stansbury. Under Maryland law, if a death occurs during the commission of a felony, the suspects involved in that felony may be charged with murder, regardless of whether he directly caused someone's death.
Police allege that Stansbury was involved in an attempted robbery immediately before the shooting.
The incident occurred shortly after 3 a.m., when two employes were leaving Gino's restaurant on Georgia Avenue, which is located behind the Stained Glass Pub.
"As I got halfway across the parking lot to my car," said one of the employes, who preferred not to have her name disclosed, "I saw a shadow jump out and jump back. I just saw the shadow reflected on my car. At first I thought it was a dog. But then I saw that my car door was cracked open; there was somebody in the back seat."
As she turned to run, her companion approached a trash dumpster nearby. A second man was hiding there, she said.
"The guy that was hiding behind the dumpster leapt out, kneeled down, aiming what we believed was a gun, and said 'Freeze' three times."
The two employes turned and ran into an adjacent 7-Eleven Store, where police Cp1. William McAtee was drinking coffee, the employe said. Police said McAtee was out of his car as part of the department's new policy to save fuel: officers are expected to walk a beat 10 minutes out of every hour.
McAtee radioed for help, and ran to the parking lot. "About five minutes later," the Gino employe said, "We heard a whole bunch of shots. It sounded like the Fourth of July."
Police said the suspects ran from the parking lot through a wooded area into a bush near the pub. Recovered in the bushes was a 25-caliber handgun, a cocked .357 magnum and a ski mask. The .357 handgun was not loaded, police said. Police said they have not yet determined whether the second gun was loaded.
Neighbors, friends and family of the suspects expressed shock and disbelief at the police's version of events. "What flips us out is we don't even know if they were doing anything," said a person close to the Burke family.
"You hear a relative's been shot, and then you find out it's by the police," said Randolph Edwards, Stansburyhs brother-in-law. "It's not a thing to take your aggravation out on the police. We just want to know why they were shot."
"I'm numb," Stansbury's mother said. "We're all still in the dark in this whole situation . . . He wasn't the type to raise hell, go out all night and cause trouble. That's something he would have normally gone 20 miles out of his way to avoid."
Neighbors said that Stansbury and Burke, both Wheaton High School graduates and both recently unemployed auto mechanics, had become friends within the last year.They had lived in the neighborhood for several years.