Rats are brazen neighbors in many a Baltimore neighborhood.
A city police officer discovered just how brazen they are when one furry scavenger turned criminal and broke into a squad car. The rodent apparently gnawed on some wires and waited.
It chose a less-than-perfect moment to emerge from hiding early Wednesday and climb up the back of a sergeant as his partner drove to a robbery call in South Baltimore.
Thinking his colleague was playing a joke by tickling his neck, Sgt. Marc J. Camarote took a swipe with his arm. The angry rodent bit the officer on the palm and thumb of his right hand, according to a police spokesman.
The rat and officer battled, and Camarote was able to roll down his window and throw the rodent onto the side of the road on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge. With his sergeant bleeding, the driver sped to Harbor Hospital, and was promptly told the rat needed to be found and tested for disease.
The officers returned to the bridge, where a well-placed police source said they found a rat limping along Hanover Street. Another struggle ensued, with the police prevailing. Not with a gun or an espantoon.
An officer beat the rat to death with an umbrella.
Police bagged the dead rodent, and it's being tested. The sergeant is out recovering for a few days.
Details, including the sergeant's name, came from the police source, but the incident was confirmed by the Baltimore Police Department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi.
Robert F. Cherry, the police union president, said officers from their first days in patrol know that running into alleys and onto streets means not only watching out for broken glass and drug needles, "but also rats."
Camarote can take comfort in knowing that he's not the first officer bitten by an animal other than a dog. Back in 1996, Officer Drew Dorbert was bitten by an 3-foot-long Ornate Nile monitor lizard near Patterson Park.
Getting bitten by a rat will most certainly earn Camarote a bit of unwanted fame and ribbing from his colleagues. His only mention in the newspaper before now was in 2004 — a one-line mention in the police blotter for arresting a drug dealer.