Man charged in shooting of 4 city officers

Sun Staff

A 26-year-old man was charged with attempted murder yesterday in the shooting of four police officers during what should have been a routine and lightning-fast raid on a North Baltimore rowhouse that netted authorities only a small amount of drugs - six small bags of marijuana and an ounce of cocaine.

While the suspect, Lewis Cauthorne, was being held last night at the Central Booking and Intake Center, city officials and residents expressed surprise that such violence erupted Tuesday night in the normally placid Cameron Village neighborhood.

"It's so strange that something like that would happen," Mayor Martin O'Malley said. "I've knocked on doors on that block and all the streets around there, and it just puzzled me that something like this would happen in a neighborhood that's very quiet generally and filled mostly with homeowners."

As police continued investigating the shooting that left the officers with nonlife-threatening wounds, Cauthorne's lawyer was criticizing police tactics yesterday. Attorney Warren A. Brown said officers were overly aggressive and failed to knock before storming the home on the 1000 block of Cameron Road - terrifying Cauthorne and his family.

"He never had a chance to know who these guys were," Brown said. "He didn't know if they were good guys or bad guys."

Though police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella conceded that "it is not clear whether officers knocked" before entering the house, she said detectives acted properly and yelled several times that they were police serving a warrant.

"The officers had a valid search warrant and seizure warrant signed by a judge," Averella said. "If they knocked and did not have an answer, they had a legal right to gain entry."

Cauthorne, a graduate of Northern High School, has no criminal record and is employed at his family's business, a city convenience store, Brown said.

The attorney suggested that Cauthorne's past might have played a role in his reaction to the police raid. In 1990, his father was shot and killed during a robbery of his taxicab. That killing has not been solved.

"This didn't have to happen," Brown said. "I don't want Lewis Cauthorne to be a sacrificial lamb. ... He was not a member of SLA or the Black Panthers or was some big dope dealer. His father was a homicide victim. That was in his pysche."

Police union officials defended the officers, saying detectives did nothing to instigate the shooting.

"Marijuana is illegal in the state," said Gary McLhinney, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. "Are we responsible for getting these officers shot? That's pretty insulting. ... This is Baltimore Defense Bar 101. The guy is saying he was protecting his family and then runs out the back door and leaves his family in the house?"

Undercover drug detectives in the Northern District were led to Cauthorne's house by a confidential informant, police wrote in a search warrant.

Detectives said that the informant approached them and claimed that someone was dealing marijuana from the Cameron Road house. Police instructed the informant to attempt a drug purchase from the home's occupants, but he told detectives that the dealer had run out of marijuana and asked him to come back later, the warrant states.

Police say that they then sifted through the home's trash and that they found 11 plastic bags containing suspected marijuana residue. A judge signed the warrant, and police prepared to raid the home Tuesday night.

While several police officers were stationed outside and behind the rowhouse, eight detectives stood ready at the front door. One officer smashed the door open with a battering ram and another rushed through the opening, holding a heavy bulletproof shield.

The other detectives quickly followed, police said.

As the officers entered the house, Cauthorne's girlfriend and mother, who had been watching television in the small living room near the front door, panicked when they heard the battering and fled the room, Brown said.

Cauthorne was in the basement teaching his 3-year-old daughter math when he heard screaming and pounding in the living room, Brown said.

Cauthorne raced upstairs and grabbed a gun because he thought the house was being attacked and he wanted to defend his family, he told investigators and Brown.

As the detectives charged into the home and began climbing stairs to the second floor, they saw a hand and gun appear from behind a wall, police said. The gun opened fire, and a gunbattle ensued. In seconds, four officers had been wounded.

Cauthorne never looked to see who was entering his house, Brown said.

When the gun ran out of bullets, Cauthorne walked outside and was spotted by two officers who ordered him to the ground, police said. Cauthorne complied and was arrested. Eighteen inches away, a detective found a .45-caliber handgun, police said. A .45-caliber handgun had been used to shoot the officers, police said.

Officer Robert J. Adams was wounded in the right arm and right thigh; Officer Michael H. Smith in the right leg; Officer James S. Guzie in the left shin; and Officer Steven Hanson in the left hand. Smith and Hanson have been released from the hospital.

The shooting was the second time in five days that an officer has been shot and the third shooting incident involving police officers this year. On Friday night, Officer James Howard was slightly wounded when an assailant took his gun during a struggle and fired one round that bounced off the officer's badge.

In July, Officer Chris Howard was seriously wounded while making a drug arrest.

O'Malley said that the police raid in such a quiet neighborhood showed how pervasive the city's drug woes had become.

But Cameron Village residents said they had not noticed any such problems in their neighborhood, despite police assertions that neighbors had been complaining recently about drug dealing.

"I didn't hear anything about drug activity," said Milton J. Barge, 73, who has lived in the neighborhood for two decades. "Nothing outrageous happens unless you have a family dispute."

The Northeast Community Organization will hold a meeting to discuss the shootings and crime at 6 p.m. today at Huber Memorial Church on York Road. The organization said in an e-mail yesterday that leaders want to "aggressively continue working" with Baltimore police and enhance its neighborhood watch program.

Sun staff writer Laura Vozzella contributed to this article.

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