An off-duty Maryland state trooper shot and wounded two men, one of them seriously, after the trooper tried to break up a fight early yesterday among four men at a fast food restaurant in College Park, Prince George's County police said.
The incident will be the first police shooting to be automatically reviewed by a county grand jury under a policy started last week by Prince George's County State's Attorney Alex Williams. The new policy calls for all life-threatening or serious shootings by any law enforcement officer in the county to be investigated by Williams' office and then reviewed by a grand jury.
County police gave this account:
The off-duty trooper, Ralph Lilly, stopped at the Little Tavern Restaurant, 7413 Baltimore Blvd., about 2:30 a.m. He saw four men in a loud argument in the parking lot and intervened after the argument escalated into a fight.
Lilly identified himself as a state police officer but two of the four men jumped on him. At some point during the scuffle the trooper pulled his off-duty weapon and fired three shots. One shot hit a 24-year-old Landover Hills man in the abdomen and a second shot grazed the hand of a 22-year-old Hyattsville man. Police were uncertain where the third shot landed.
The Landover Hills man was taken to the Washington Hospital Center in critical condition, but his condition was upgraded to serious yesterday afternoon. The Hyattsville man did not need treatment. Police declined to identify the injured men, saying that it was their policy not to name crime victims.
The 22-year-old trooper, who has been assigned to the JFK Highway barracks in Harford County during his 12 months on the force, is on annual leave from the department and is not due back until Thursday, said Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the Maryland State Police. Shipley said the department's internal affairs unit also will investigate the shooting.
Sgt. Mark Wright, a county police spokesman, said no one involved in the incident had been charged after a preliminary investigation. The two other men in the argument fled the scene, Wright said.
County police will forward the case to the state's attorney's office when the investigation is completed, said Wright, who added that charges against the three men involved could come out of the grand jury's review of the incident.
Under Williams' new policy, an assistant state's attorney will review the incident with the county police investigating officer within 48 hours and make a preliminary determination about whether the shooting was justifiable.