Three police officers were shot last night on Landover Road in Prince George's County as two would-be robbers, holding a hostage, tried to flee the scene of an aborted restaurant holdup.
The officers' wounds were not believed serious, authorities reported early this morning, and an intensive search was under way for the gunmen.
The hostage taken at the Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant at 6501 Landover Road was found unharmed, Prince George's County police said.
The holdup attempt occurred around 11 p.m., according to police and witnesses. According to a county police , the would-be robbers were spotted from outside by a police officer, who summoned reinforcements to the scene, located between Rte. 50 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Police said that the restaurant was under police surveillance at the time of the robbery attempt. They said that the surveillance program began after a number of fast food restaurants in the county had been held up.
Large numbers off officers began flooding into the area, according to an employe of a 7-Eleven store across the street from the restaurant.
At one point, a witness said she heard police use a bullhorn to issue orders to the suspects in the restaurant to "come out with your hands up."
According to county police spokesman Cpl. Bruce Gentile, five employes were in the store at the time, and the robbers ordered several to exchange clothing with them. Then, Gentile said, the robbers sent four of the employes out the back door of the restaurant.
The robbers left the restaurant by the front door, taking one of the employes with them as a hostage.
An employe of the 7-Eleven store across the street from the restaurant said she saw one of the robbers come out of the store holding a woman hostage around the neck.
At that point, police said, shots were fired and the three officers were wounded.
The convenience store employe said she saw what appeared to be muzzle flashes from the robber's gun and heard the sounds "pow, pow, pow . . . . "
After firing the shots, the employe said, the gunman dragged the woman hostage into a pickup truck, which was parked near the restaurant.
As the truck began driving off, police fired at its tires, according to Gentile, In addition, officers set off in pursuit of the vehicle, which authorities said apparently belonged to one of the restaurant employes.
Gentile said that the truck, with one of its tires shot out, headed onto Landover Road (Rte. 202) and rolled haltingly for about 100 yards before police pulled it over.
After the truck stopped, Gentile said, the suspects jumped out and ran into a wooded area near Landover Road, abandoning their hostage.
As of early this morning, police said they knew of no arrests, but a search for the two robbery suspects was continuing.
Witnesses said that as many as 100 police officers were gathered in the area of the restaurant for a time early this morning, and that some were apparently using dogs to search the vicinity.
Members of the county police SWAT team were among those sent to the scene, and authorities blocked a portion of Landover Road to facilitate their search.
The three injured officers were taken to Prince George's Hospital Center.
Police said robbery squad detective Howard Shook was shot in both legs, Det. Joseph W. Frolich was shot in the arm, and Pvt. Ronald L. Kaszubski was shot in the foot. Shook remained under treatment at the hospital this morning. The other two were released after treatment.
There was also a report that a fourth officer, a member of the Cheverly town police force was grazed by a bullet during the shooting.
As of early this morning police emphasized that their account of the incident was still preliminary and that investigators were continuing to try to sort out details
Staff writer Jeffrey Yorke contributed to this report.