Two Prince George's County narcotics officers shot and killed a District Heights man during an undercover drug operation Wednesday night after the man pointed a chrome-plated BB pistol at the officers, police said.
Police said that Adrian Eugene Ross, 22, had taken officers to buy a $20 rock of crack cocaine from an apartment in District Heights. Ross was fleeing arrest when he turned and pointed the BB gun, a copy of a semiautomatic handgun, police said. Officers fired five times, striking Ross once in the right side, police said.
Ross, who lived in the 7400 block of Walker Mill Road, was flown to Prince George's Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:05 p.m., police said.
The police department declined to release the names of the officers, citing the undercover nature of their assignments. Sources identified the officers as Michael Bozeman and Kenneth Frazier, both of whom are assigned to the Street Narcotics Division.
Neither of the officers had been involved in a previous shooting, nor had either had an excessive force complaint sustained against him, according to police sources and a representative of the county Human Relations Commission. The Police Department has been trying to shed an image that it uses excessive force, sometimes in racially tinged situations. In this case, the two officers involved in the incident and Ross are black.
The officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, police said.
The shooting occurred during the police department's Operation Triple Play, an intensive, periodic two-week effort aimed at reducing street drug traffic. It was the first such incident during the Triple Play operations, which have netted thousands of arrests in the last two years. It is also the first shooting involving undercover narcotics officers since the county formed its Street Narcotics Division more than two years ago, police said. Coincidentally, the county is in the midst of Red Ribbon Week, a highly publicized campaign against drug abuse.
Ross's father, Willie Ross, said yesterday that his son was a drug addict who had been in and out of treatment facilities and who often would take people to buy drugs in exchange for a share of the purchase.
"My son's a user and it's understood that when you take another person to get drugs, they give you some," said Ross. "That's how he got his drugs. He didn't have no money."
Willie Ross questioned whether the officers identified themselves as police, maintaining that his son would not have run or pointed a BB gun at men "armed with real weapons." Ross said that he had given his son the BB gun but that he had not given him any pellets for the weapon.
"There have been plenty of times that we've been high when the police came up and we never ran," said Ross's brother, William Ross. "Why would he point a fake gun at people with a real gun?"
Police said that Bozeman and Frazier identified themselves as police officers when they tried to make the arrest.
"The officers had seen the gun and when the deal started to go bad, they abandoned the undercover nature of the operation and identified themselves as police," said Capt. Hollis J. "Jimmy" White, a department spokesman. "When he pointed the gun at them, they had no way of knowing whether it was real or not."
Police said that Ross and a companion, Eric Delawrence Reed, 21, agreed to take the undercover officers to an apartment in the Fox Glenn complex in the 6800 block of Walker Mill Road to buy drugs. Reed, who lives in the Fox Glenn complex, waited in the parking lot with one of the officers while Ross accompanied the other officer to the apartment where the officer bought a $20 rock of crack cocaine, police said.
When Ross and the officer returned to the parking lot, Ross demanded part of the cocaine and a struggle ensued, police said. At that point, the officers identified themselves as police and tried to arrest Ross and Reed, police said. Ross fled, turning as he ran to point the BB gun, police said.
Reed was arrested without incident and charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and distribution of cocaine, police said. He is being held on $30,000 bond.
After the shooting, police said, officers served a search warrant at the apartment where the cocaine was purchased and recovered 2.4 grams of crack cocaine, worth an estimated $420.
Residents of Fox Glenn said the complex has been plagued by drug trafficking. Anita Bennaugh, acting supervisor for Fox Glenn, said the apartment management staff had sought help from the police, who had been working undercover in the complex for several weeks. Bennaugh said police had targeted several suspected crack houses in the complex.
"The officers have been quite helpful and cooperative," said Bennaugh. "It really had gotten pretty quiet -- until last night."