A man who ran a red light near Waldorf and then fled from police who tried to stop him was shot in the back and killed early yesterday morning, allegedly by a Maryland state trooper. A State Police spokesman said police are still uncertain how many shots were fired, whether the man was killed trying to escape and whether the man was armed.
Police identified the dead man as James Harland Morris Sr., 29, of Bryantown, a rural community about five miles south of Waldorf, but were able to provide no further information about him.
Police spokesman Chuck Jackson said an off-duty state trooper, Michael R. White, who is assigned to the Forestville barracks, saw Morris drive his white Pinto car through a red light at Rte. 301 and Mattawoman Beantown Road.
White, driving a marked police car, turned on flashing lights and a siren in an attempt to stop the car as it headed south on Rte. 301, Jackson said. When Morris kept going, Jackson said, the state trooper called for assistance and gave chase.
Several other state troopers and a Charles County sheriff's deputy joined the chase as it headed into Pinefield, a residential section of Waldorf, and onto Rte. 5. Around this time, Jackson said, one of the troopers reported hearing "what sounded like gunfire."
The chase continued for about 10 minutes, Jackson said, covering about five miles, until Morris drove into a fence in front of the Thomas Stone High School. At that time, Jackson said, between five and seven shots were fired. One shot struck Morris in the back, Jackson said.
After the shooting, Jackson said, a struggle ensued as Morris tried to flee. Jackson said Morris was subdued by police and flown by police helicopter to Prince George's General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
"We don't have any explanation yet why Morris was shot," Jackson said. He said it remains unclear which of the five troopers on the scene shot Morris or what led the trooper to do so. Jackson said investigators have concluded that Morris was not shot by a Charles County deputy. He said it also remains unclear whether Morris fired on troopers, or was even armed.
No officer saw Morris holding a gun, Jackson said. Police found an empty rifle case in Morris' car, but no rifle. Police and police dogs searched the area and found no guns. A small quantity of a substance police suspect is the illegal drug PCP was also found in Morris' car, Jackson said. Jackson said pathologists will be able to determine from powder marks on Morris' body or other ballistic evidence if Morris fired a gun.
Once it is determined which officer shot Morris, Jackson said, the officer probably will be placed on administrative leave or light duty.