A Calvert County deputy sheriff responding to an alarm at a Lusby golf course Sunday fired a gunshot at a burglary suspect who failed to obey his command to drop an object that looked like a weapon, Sheriff Mike Evans said.
The gunshot, fired by Deputy Thomas Phelps with his agency-issued handgun, did not strike the male suspect, who then fled into a wooded area with two others, the sheriff's office said.
Phelps, a road patrol deputy who has been with the sheriff's office for about a year, has been placed on administrative leave until Friday as internal investigators determine whether the shooting was justified, Evans said.
Preliminary information shows that it was, Evans said, though he said the incident was still under investigation. It was the first shooting involving Phelps since he joined the sheriff's office, Evans said.
Internal investigators have yet to interview Phelps, who has retained a lawyer, Evans said. State law allows officers in such situations 10 days before they have to answer any questions regarding the proceedings, and statements they make to internal investigators cannot be used against them criminally.
The shooting -- the first involving a Calvert County deputy sheriff in recent memory, Evans said -- occurred about 2:20 a.m. at the Chesapeake Hills Golf Club in Lusby. A security alarm sounded at the club, and Phelps was the only deputy to respond, officials said.
When he arrived, he encountered a male suspect in the dimly lighted doorway of the club. The man had something in his hand that Phelps believed to be a weapon, and the deputy ordered the man to drop it. When the suspect failed to obey, Phelps fired one shot at him, officials said.
The suspect fled into the woods with two other male suspects, and all of them were later apprehended. Deputies arrested two 16-year-olds, who were not identified, and Shawn M. Clark, 18, of Lusby. They have been charged with two counts each of burglary and destruction of property.
Evans said he did not know which of the suspects Phelps shot at.
Sheriff's officers said they think the three suspects also were involved in a burglary earlier that night at a Texaco station on Route 765 in Lusby, Evans said. Nothing was stolen at the gas station, which was entered by moving an air-conditioning unit.
Calvert deputies can use deadly force to defend themselves or others "when no apparent alternative exists," according to agency rules. The deputy must be facing "what really appears to be a significant and immediate threat of death or serious physical harm," according to policy.