One year later, lead detective reflects on fatal shootings of two Harford County deputies, friends

Lead detective in the fatal shootings of two Harford County deputies reflects on the case one year later.

Detective Chris Sergent was heading out for lunch a year ago Friday when the call came over the police radio. A fellow Harford County sheriff's deputy had been shot at an Abingdon restaurant.

Sergent flipped on his lights and siren and raced to the scene. When he arrived at the Panera Bread restaurant, he got out, opened the trunk, pulled out a tactical vest and put it on.

Sergent surveyed the scene. He knew he'd have to start separating and interviewing the dozens of patrons who had witnessed the shooting. But first, he focused on the deputy being treated by medics.

Sergent recognized Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey, a veteran with whom he had served in the agency's honor guard.

Then came the sound of more gunshots — a shootout between the suspect and another deputy outside a nearby senior housing complex. Finally, word that Senior Deputy Mark Logsdon was also down.

That hit Sergent even harder. Not only did he and Logsdon serve in the honor guard together, they had bonded as members of the same police academy class. Logsdon attended Sergent's wedding, and Sergent had helped Logsdon move into his new home.

Dailey and Logsdon both died. The suspect, a drifter, was also dead. Sergent's supervisor, Cpl. Greg Dietz, turned to him: It's your case. Can you lead this investigation?

Friday is the first anniversary of the shooting deaths of Dailey and Logsdon, the deadliest attack on the Harford County sheriff's office in its 240-year history. Only once before, in 1899, had a deputy been killed in the line of duty.

"Everyone is probably a little different than they were the day before," Maj. Jack Simpson said recently.

The responsibility for finding answers for a grieving community — and the deputies' colleagues — fell to Sergent.

In the small but growing county, many deputies know each other, and Dailey, a 30-year veteran, and Logsdon, a 16-year veteran, were old friends to many.

"The way I was looking at it, this guy just murdered two of my friends, and everybody in this agency and this community had been affected by this," Sergent said this week. "I needed to find out as much information as I possibly could about this guy, and why it happened. All the questions everyone had needed answers."

More immediately, it dawned on Sergent that the agency would need to begin preparing for two funerals. And its honor guard, which provides pallbearers for police funerals, had lost two members.

Sergent, 37, grew up in Bel Air, graduated from C. Milton Wright High School and entered the sheriff's office's police academy in 2001.

He was 20. The work appealed to him, he said, because he wanted to help people.

"Police were somebody you looked up to," he said.

Sergent became a detective in 2009, working burglaries for two years before joining the unit that investigates violent crimes.

He left the honor guard about two years before the officers' deaths. But on the night of the shootings, he approached the sergeant who ran the unit and asked if he could rejoin it for the funerals.

"As hard of a thing as that was for all of us in the agency, there's nothing else that I would've wanted to do," he said.

And then there was the criminal investigation, this one different from most. There was no suspect to track down, no court case to present.

He set out to learn what he could about the suspect, 69-year-old David Brian Evans, including his movements before the shooting and a possible motive.

Sergent also had more people to interview than in a typical case. School had been canceled that day for snow, and many families were in and around the restaurant. He asked people who saw the shooting to go to one side of the restaurant. Others who had pieces of information were directed to another side.

He also wanted to reassure everyone that they were safe.

The detectives led the witnesses one by one out of the restaurant and into their vehicles to be interviewed away from the rest. They interviewed more than 80 people.

Sergent spent long hours chasing leads and reviewing information, then would take shifts with the honor guard, which stays with the casket of a fallen deputy from death to burial.

"He took that on, on top of his responsibilities as a detective, and on top of being a dad and a husband," Dietz said.

"I was in awe," said Sgt. Ken Perry, a member of the honor guard.

Dailey's viewing and funeral came first. On the honor guard, Dailey had been a stickler for details, making sure the unit moved crisply in formation and looked impressive. Now his colleagues knew they had to get it right for him.

On the night of Logsdon's viewing, a motor escort took his body back to the McComas Funeral Home, where Sergent had arranged for their academy class to get together.

On this night, they put their chairs in a circle next to Logsdon's casket and shared stories. Sergent took the front left position carrying the casket.

Sergent was able to dig up new information about Evans, poring over records and working with authorities in multiple states.

Evans and his wife had divorced in Harford County in 1989, but he'd followed her and their children to Georgia and back to Maryland.

In 1996, she was grazed in the neck by a .22-caliber bullet. She didn't know who'd shot her but suspected it was her ex-husband. She said he had been stalking her and their kids.

The bullet lodged in her coat and was collected as evidence. Detectives were unable to locate Evans.

Evans' family, meanwhile, spent years trying to locate him, without success. In 2014, a judge declared him legally dead.

Evans resurfaced in Harford County in the summer of 2015. He became a familiar face at the Panera Bread.

His ex-wife spotted him last Feb. 10. She called 911. Dailey was dispatched to check for a possible wanted person.

He did not know Evans was carrying a loaded 9-mm Smith and Wesson pistol in a soft-paddle holster on a belt.

Evans had a second loaded magazine in his pants pocket. In his vehicle was a cache of weapons and more than 2,700 rounds of ammunition.

Sergent found that Evans had apparently been using the Panera Bread Wi-Fi to search the internet for information about his estranged family. He still doesn't know why Evans opened fire on the deputies that day.

"We certainly believe he was not up here for the best intentions," Sergent said. "I think he was up here to finish what he was starting before.

"Thankfully, that did not happen, and his ex-wife and children are all safe."

During his investigation, Sergent located the projectile from the 1996 shooting. Through ballistics testing, police were able to match the bullet to a rifle found in the trunk of Evans' vehicle.

That case, open for 20 years, was now closed.

Sergent compiled his findings in five binders and gave presentations to Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler and his command staff. He put everything into a banker's box, topped it with copies of The Aegis newspaper from the week of the shootings, and sealed it up.

He concluded that the officers acted appropriately, from the handling of the initial call to the shooting of the suspect.

"That was a routine call that we would've answered on any day, and deputies would've responded the same way," said Cristie Kahler, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office. "I'm sure that exact scenario unfolds hundreds of times across our state a day."

Sergent says he has visited some of the makeshift memorials set up for the deputies, but he hasn't returned to the scene of the shootings.

"I don't think I'm quite ready to do that," he said.

Sergent has developed a PowerPoint presentation about the case that he gives to new recruits.

He wants to show them the different techniques he used in his investigation. But he also wants to make sure they remember an incident that forever changed police work for those in a growing but still tight-knit agency.

"I want the new guys to know the facts and be aware of the sacrifice that our brothers made," Sergent said. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of Pat and Mark in some way. I think I can speak for the rest of the agency in saying that."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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