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Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of an unforgettable manhunt in Havre de Grace

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Twenty-five years may have passed since a New York City man turned a routine traffic case into a night of mayhem when he killed a police officer and wounded three others in Havre de Grace, but for some of those close to the manhunt and the overnight siege of the city, the events have not been forgotten.

On Sept. 18, 1986, Frank Edward Green, of Far Rockaway in Queens, stopped on Route 40 after the stolen white Ford van he was driving ran out of gas, according to stories in The Record. As Green, 27 at the time, was walking up the Hatem Bridge that evening, Toll Facilities Officer Robert Pyles picked him up to return him to the van he abandoned.

Harford County Sheriff's Deputy Stephen Wagner and Havre de Grace Officer Dennis Rittershofer were already at the van examining it and would soon find out it was stolen.

For Green, the discovery would mean possibly being sent back to Attica State Prison in New York, where he had recently been paroled after serving time for multiple criminal convictions. Shortly after his release, Green became a suspect in the rape and assault of a nursing home attendant.

As the police car Officer Pyles was driving was slowing down behind the parked van, Green shot him in the head with a .38 caliber pistol from the back seat, sending the car careening up and down along the Jersey barrier. A gawker at the scene, for unknown reasons, opened the back door of the police car, freeing Green, allowing him to shoot the other officers before fleeing east into residential areas of Havre de Grace.

That was the start of a lockdown of Havre de Grace and manhunt that would last throughout the night and into the next morning. Officer Pyles died 10 days later at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

William Lamphere, Havre de Grace deputy chief at the time, said Tuesday he remembers everything that followed.

"The death of the Toll Facilities Officer Pyle was extremely tragic along with the shooting of two Havre de Grace officers and a Harford County sheriff's deputy," Lamphere, who later became chief of police in Havre de Grace and later in Hurlock on the Eastern Shore, wrote in an e-mail.

By the time Lamphere became involved, Green had already escaped from the police cruiser and opened fire on officers, striking Rittershofer in the head and Wagner in the arm. From there, Green was chased by two Havre de Grace officers, Charles Briggs and Gary Reilly into an alley behind McDonald's.

It was there Green hit the fourth officer, Briggs, in the left side of his neck and shoulder and Lamphere arrived on the scene.

There was "a lot of confusion" about what had happened, Lamphere wrote, because several departments were involved and had different command posts set up. Despite the chaos, Lamphere made sure to praise the dispatcher on duty, who he remembers has the first name of Patty, calling her the "heroine of that night."

"Her performance as a [police communication officer] was nothing short of incredible," he wrote.

As night was turning into day, there would be more to Green's rampage. Shortly before 6 a.m. he kidnapped Dave Rimel, a Market Street resident who was heading to work. Green forced Rimel, at gunpoint, to drive through police barricades for 15 minutes before Rimel drove his truck into a curb and managed to get away without being shot..

From there, Green continued to elude police before stealing another resident's car and, in a hail of police gunfire, crashed the bullet-riddled car on Revolution Street near the parking garage across Union Avenue from Harford Memorial Hospital. He jumped out and tried to get away again on foot. Police grabbed him as started to go over a fence. Miraculously, Green's only injury was to his leg as he scrambled up the fence.

The chaos that began at shortly before 8:30 p.m. on Route 40 at Ontario St ended about 11 hours later at Revolution Street and Union Avenue as Green was whisked away at about 7:45 a.m. to the Bel Air Barrack of the Maryland State Police.

In addition to Havre de Grace police, searching for Green and eventually capturing him were the result of the efforts of numerous police agencies, including the state police, Aberdeen and Bel Air town police, Maryland Transportation Authority Police, Natural Resources Police, Delaware State Police and Baltimore County Police and the Cecil County Sheriff's Office. All of the officers, according to Lamphere, were integral to Green's capture, as well as the few citizens involved.

"Everyone who responded that night was a hero," he wrote. "Because of their unselfish actions we were able to capture a very dangerous individual."

Lamphere has since retired, after 42 years in law enforcement, and said he is lucky to do so without sustaining any major injuries. The events that took place on Sept. 18, 1986, however, will always have an impact on his life.

"It made me realize that life is far more precious and delicate," he wrote, "and that we tend to take life for granted even though it is susceptible to change in an instant!"

The roughly 10-hour long manhunt was memorable for The Record employees who had to cover it then as well. Now The Aegis and Record sports editor, Randy McRoberts was a 22-year-old staff member when Green tore through Havre de Grace.

McRoberts remembers playing Wiffle ball when The Record News Editor Ted Hendricks, now executive editor, pulled up and told him to find out what he could before heading to The Record office. McRoberts ended up at the scene by McDonald's as the helicopter landed to take Briggs to the hospital, his empty stretcher rolling to a stop at McRoberts' feet.

"I just remember a big thing of blood, right there on the white stretcher," McRoberts said.

From there, he headed to the office before he and Hendricks realized the construction zone next door was the "perfect place to hide." McRoberts wasn't necessarily scared, he said, only unnerved as he drove home from The Record office.

What made him nervous, he added, was leaving a somewhat secure building to drive home while Green was still on the loose.

"My goal was to get from where I was to my house without some clown trying to get into my car," he said.

In May 1988, Green was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences and an additional 225 years for the murder of Officer Pyles, attempted murder of three other police officers and several other crimes in connection to the events of that night, according to a Record article.

Green is serving his sentence at the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, according to the Maryland Department of Corrections Inmate Locator.

McRoberts ended up outside of Harford Memorial the next morning after Green was captured.

When they escorted Green into a waiting police vehicle it ended what McRoberts called a "bizarre night."

"It's just strange how it all unfolded," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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