Over a two-decade career as a Howard County police officer, Capt. Tara D. Nelson has helped bring to justice scores of rapists, murderers, robbers and other ne'er-do-wells.

But police said Nelson, head of the county's Criminal Investigations Bureau, went too far when she tried to mete out punishment to someone she perceived as another scalawag: her husband.

Baltimore County police arrested Nelson this weekend on charges that she tried to run over her spouse and another man with a car after discovering that her husband was cheating on her.

Nelson, 43, was placed on leave, and her police powers were suspended, said Pfc. Jennifer Reidy, a spokeswoman for Howard County police.

As commander of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, Nelson oversees 70 sworn detectives and officers who handle a wide range of crimes, including murder, rape, burglary and assault.

The altercation began Saturday at Nelson's home on Autumn Blaze Court, in the Woodstock section of Baltimore County, when Nelson discovered a number of receipts in her car, including a bill for a hotel room with room service for a couple and another for a two-person meal in a restaurant, according to the police charging document. She then confronted her husband, L.W. Nelson, and demanded an explanation.

He "responded that he didn't have to tell her anything," the document says.

L.W. Nelson said his wife then became irate and tried to run him over with her Lexus and destroy his blue-and-silver motorcycle, the report says. He told police that he had to jump over objects in the driveway and hide behind a basketball hoop to avoid being struck.

Another man, Willis Bryan Bogan of Baltimore County, described in the document as a friend of her husband's, said Tara Nelson also tried to run over him, the charging document says.

Nelson told police she didn't know where her husband was when she repeatedly struck his motorcycle and a nearby tree, the charging document says. She said she warned her husband to get away from the Lexus before she drove it into a tree so hard that the bark peeled off, police said.

The "car was a gift to her from her husband and she wanted to destroy it," the charging document says. She "wanted to destroy the motorcycle too."

After the fracas, Nelson burst into tears and came into the home, the report says.

Neither her husband nor Bogan could be reached yesterday. The charging document does not refer to any injuries; a Baltimore County police spokesman could not be reached.

Baltimore County police charged Nelson with three counts of first-degree assault and three counts of second-degree assault. Nelson, who did not return a call to her home seeking comment, was released on personal recognizance and ordered to have no unlawful contact with her husband or Bogan. Police removed her gun and ammunition from her home.

Tara Nelson was not charged in connection with an alleged incident involving her gun. Her husband told police that episode started a month ago when his wife told him to sign a contract to sell their house, the charging document says.

When he refused, she pulled out her gun and put it to his head, police said.

Eventually, she put down the gun and he signed the papers, the document says. L.W. Nelson said he did not report the incident because "he did not want her arrested," the charging document says.