A 64-year-old man, apparently despondent over the recent death of his mother, shot and killed his son-in-law and then wounded six Anne Arundel County police officers in an early morning shootout today at his home in this rural community 20 miles south of Annapolis, according to police.
Five hours after the gunfire had ended, with nearly 100 police and firefighters standing by, a special team of police was about to storm the house when officers spotted a body on a woodpile behind the house. It was later identified as that of the alleged gunman, George White, a retired well driller. Earlier, White's daughter and two grandchildren had escaped unharmed from the tiny, green house that they shared with White.
During the exchange of gunfire, one police officer was seriously wounded and was flown to the shock trauma unit in Baltimore, where he was reported in stable condition tonight. A second officer was hospitalized with a collapsed lung and a hand injury.
Four other officers were treated for minor injuries at Anne Arundel General Hospital in Annapolis.
Police spokesman V. Richard Molloy said that until an autopsy is performed on White's body on Friday in Baltimore, police cannot be sure whether White died from a police bullet or from a self-inflicted wound.
Tara Harris, 23, said she was in the dining room about 2 a.m. when her grandfather, dressed in hunting clothes and armed with a 16-gauge shotgun, came through the room, walking toward the back door.
"I asked him, 'Where are you going, Daddy?' " she said, and her grandfather responded, 'hunting.' "
Despite her protests that it was too dark to hunt, Tara Harris said her grandfather went outside. About that time, she said, her father, Leonard Harris, 43, came from his bedroom to the kitchen, apparently to get something to drink from the refrigerator.
Tara Harris said that moments later she heard a gunshot in the kitchen and heard her father call out for her mother, Loretta Harris.
Tara Harris said that her mother ran into the kitchen, saw her husband slumped against the refrigerator bleeding, and ran into her bedroom and called an ambulance. The ambulance dispatcher notified police of the shooting.
Officer Charles Adams, 25, who was the first to arrive at the house at 956 W. Benning Rd., was shot as he approached the house alone.
Police said White, standing on the back porch, fired at Adams with a 16-gauge, double-barreled shotgun, riddling the officer with birdshot from head to toe. Police said the wounded Adams fired four shots in return, none of which struck White, and then radioed for back-up units.
Paramedics arrived about the same time Adams was shot and treated him for multiple gunshot wounds. Adams later was flown to Baltimore by state police helicopter.
Police said that as other officers arrived, White ran back and forth behind the house, exchanging shots with them until 2:45 a.m. After that, police tried unsuccessfully for several hours to make contact with him by phone and through a bullhorn.
Police said White's two grandchildren, Tara Harris and her brother, Leonard Harris Jr., 13, escaped from the house shortly after the shooting ended, when police called for anyone inside to come out. One of them jumped from a first-floor bedroom window and the other ran out the front door toward the police.
Their mother, Loretta Harris, 42, had locked herself in a bedroom, and remained there until 4:20 a.m., when she answered the telephone. Police told her that if she could not see her father, she should climb out the bedroom window, which she did.
For the next several hours, police continued to call for White on the bullhorn, and let the telephone ring continuously. After daybreak, about 7:30 a.m., as Anne Arundel special operations officers prepared to storm the house, they saw the body in the backyard. Police theorized that White had been dead since the last volley of gunfire was fired five hours earlier.
Police then entered the house and found the body of Leonard Harris Sr., in the kitchen. Police said Harris had been shot in the chest at close range.
The other officers injured in the exchange of gunfire were Sgt. Larry Donaldson, 44, who was in good condition tonight at Anne Arundel General Hospital with a collapsed lung and hand wound; Officers Andrew Siske, 22; Roland Haag, 30; and Phillip Dodge, 42, who were treated at the hospital and released, and Officer George Starkey, 30, who was treated for minor injuries at the scene. A seventh officer, Lt. Edgar Koch, 33, was injured when he fell after trying to protect another officer from the gunfire, police reported.
"We'll just never know what happened today," White's son, Buck, said this afternoon as he sat with friends on the stoop of an abandoned wooden house next door to his father's home.
Several relatives and neighbors described White as a slight, jolly man who was known to most people in the tiny, closely knit, black enclave of Galesville as "Flowerpot."
But Raymond Fountain, a family friend, said White's behavior became markedly subdued after the death of his 81-year-old mother in September. Since then, Fountain said, White seemed depressed, and spent most of his time sitting alone in his bedroom.
Leonard Harris' sister, Delores Johnson, said White had recently complained that he was hearing voices and told his daughter, Loretta, "They're coming after me."