A 33-year-old Great Mills man remained hospitalized this week after he was shot in the abdomen Saturday night by a St. Mary's County sheriff's officer when he brandished what turned out to be a BB gun.
Five minutes after midnight on Saturday morning, Deputy Douglas Mills was on a patrol check at St. Mary's Lake and noticed a car parked at the edge of a trail leading into the woods, according to a sheriff's office report.
The state park in Callaway closes at dusk, so the officer got out of his cruiser to inspect the car.
When he found no one inside, Mills walked about 100 yards into the woods, where he encountered William E. Hester at the edge of the trail, according to the report.
Mills shined his flashlight on Hester and asked him to show his hands. At that point, according to the sheriff's office, Hester pointed what appeared to Mills to be a black and chrome semiautomatic handgun at the officer, who responded by firing two rounds from his agency-issued .40-caliber Beretta, hitting Hester once in the abdomen.
Hester fell to the ground and dropped his weapon, which turned out to be a BB pistol. Another BB gun also was found at the scene, the report stated.
After the shooting, two other men emerged from the woods and were taken into custody without incident, according to the sheriff's office.
One was Hester's brother, 19-year-old Christopher Hester, of Great Mills. The other was his friend, a 17-year-old Leonardtown youth whose name was not released because he is a minor.
The three were "fishing, camping and consuming alcohol" at the park, said Lt. John Horne, spokesman for the sheriff's office. William Hester had been drinking when the incident occurred, Horne said.
Both teenagers were charged with Department of Natural Resources violations and were later released, Horne said. First-degree assault charges are pending against Hester for pointing a weapon at an officer.
Hester is expected to be charged once he is released from the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, where he was taken by helicopter after the shooting.
Mills, who has 3 1/2 years of experience as an officer, has been placed on routine administrative leave with pay during the sheriff's office investigation of the incident, Horne said.
"[The shooting] appears to be very straightforward," he said. There are "no unusual circumstances. There doesn't appear to be any problems with the investigations."
The park surrounding St. Mary's Lake is open only during daylight, but the sign indicating the park was closed was not visible Saturday night, said Capt. Steven Doolan, assistant sheriff. Officers later discovered the sign among nearby weeds.
Staff writers Jessie Mangaliman and Annie Gowen contributed to this report.