MARYLAND

Man Shoots at Police, Is Found Dead

A motorist suspected of driving drunk exchanged shots with Montgomery County police late last night, and an officer may have been saved from serious injury by his bullet-resistant vest, a county police spokeswoman said. The suspect was later found dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

Police said a motorist in a Mercedes who was believed to be driving under the influence had been pursued about 11 p.m. to Brink Road and Route 124 in the Gaithersburg area, where he got out of the vehicle and opened fire. Backup officers arrived and fired at the suspect, who fled.

After an intensive search, police early this morning spotted the suspect's body and a gun in a field near the intersection.

They said the protective vest worn by one of the officers was struck by gunfire but was not penetrated, and he remained at the scene during the search.

Three Die in I-95 Crash in Baltimore

Three people were killed yesterday in a fiery crash on Interstate 95 in Baltimore that temporarily shut down the highway in both directions, authorities said.

The crash, which involved three cars and two tractor-trailers, occurred about 4 p.m. in the southbound lanes, just before the toll plaza for the Fort McHenry Tunnel. The three people killed were in two of the cars. Two other people were injured.

Three of the four northbound lanes were reopened by 7 p.m., but the southbound lanes remained closed late last night. A spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority said all lanes were expected to be open well before 6 a.m. today. The cause of the crash was not immediately known. Backups reached as far as six miles, but the MTA said it rerouted much of the affected traffic.

Low-Income Tax Relief Proposed

Montgomery County Council President Steven A. Silverman (D-At Large) yesterday unveiled a proposal to provide tax relief to about 10,000 low- and fixed-income homeowners while still covering an estimated $30 million budget gap.

Silverman proposes to pay for the $40 million package by raising the energy tax by about $40 per household per year, bringing the total energy tax bill to about $100 per household each year.

"I'm a business person. Raising taxes are a last resort," he explained. "But we have two choices: either don't fund our priorities or find cuts. And unless we're prepared to start firing teachers, librarians and bus drivers, because government budgets are largely people, we've got to find other solutions."

Silverman blamed budget cuts by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) for the county's budget gap. He said the council was struggling, for instance, to find a way to pay for a proposal to expand all-day kindergarten and pay for school construction.

He said county homeowners need some tax relief after three straight years of skyrocketing assessments. Council member Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg) has proposed raising the energy tax in order to cut property taxes for all homeowners. Silverman said his plan is targeted to those most in need.

Water Taxi Survivors File Lawsuit

Three survivors of the deadly March capsizing of a water taxi in Baltimore filed a $17 million lawsuit yesterday. They allege that the Living Classrooms Foundation, which owns the Seaport Taxi fleet, and Baltimore Harbor Shuttle, which runs the fleet, failed to obtain readily available weather information about an approaching storm.

"Had they done so, the accident would have been totally preventable," said Stuart Salsbury, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Five people died when winds of more than 50 mph capsized the ferry March 6. The 36-foot Lady D was carrying 23 tourists from historic Fort McHenry toward Fells Point.

The plaintiffs are Thomas E. Pierce of Vineland, N.J., who lost his wife and a daughter in the accident; and Eric Jahnsen, 25, and Sarah Kernagis, 23, an engaged couple from Mount Holly, N.C. Pierce's other daughter, Kathleen Cejkousky of Sewell, N.J., is also a plaintiff, but she was not on the water taxi.

Ehrlich Signs Drug Treatment Measure

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) signed into law a measure that he said will put Maryland on a new course toward dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, stressing treatment instead of punishment for addicts who commit nonviolent crimes.

Drug addiction "is an issue that in my view is the No. 1 social issue in America," Ehrlich said as he prepared to sign the bill, which was one of his top priorities in the recent legislative session.

A new approach to drugs is needed because of the "enormous expense and human suffering" resulting from addiction, he said. "You cannot begin to quantify the cost."

THE DISTRICT

Council Presses Youth Center Issue

The D.C. Council yesterday gave tentative approval to a proposal to withhold funding from a division of the Department of Human Services unless the mayor submits a plan to close Oak Hill Youth Center, the city's juvenile detention center in Laurel, by Oct. 1.

Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), who sponsored the legislation, said Oak Hill is dilapidated and outdated. The Youth Services Administration, which runs the facility, is under consideration for a possible takeover by a court-ordered receivership because of long-standing problems at the 188-bed facility.

The council approved the proposal 12 to 1, with Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8) voting no. Allen said she had not seen the proposal before the meeting. She also noted that the city is preparing a plan -- due to City Administrator Robert C. Bobb this week -- that outlines how to fix Oak Hill.

Bobb called the council vote a "budget hostage-taking" move and challenged council members to come up with a better solution.

The council will have another chance to consider the matter Friday, when it is scheduled to vote on the entire city budget.

Mayor Joins Book Discussion at School

The student book club at Calvin Coolidge Senior High in Northwest Washington had a special guest yesterday: D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D).

Williams led a discussion about "Interpreter of Maladies," a short-story collection about cross-cultural experiences that is the focus this month of a literacy campaign called D.C. We Read. The D.C. Public Library started the project in 2002 to combat the city's high illiteracy rate and to try to get all of Washington to read the same book at the same time.

"Interpreter of Maladies," by Indian American author Jhumpa Lahiri, was selected by a committee of library staff.

"They are organized. This is not just 400 guys loosely running around Fairfax County."

-- Sgt. Greg Smith of the Fairfax police gang unit -- Page A1

Compiled from reports by staff writers Manny Fernandez, Theola Labbe, Martin Weil, Clarence Williams and Brigid Schulte and the Associated Press.