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Baltimore County police officer welcomed back to work a year after being shot in the line of duty

Baltimore County police investigating the shooting last year that left an elderly man dead and Officer First Class Tabitha Hays shot and badly wounded. Hays returned to work Friday morning to plaudits from her police chief.
Baltimore County police investigating the shooting last year that left an elderly man dead and Officer First Class Tabitha Hays shot and badly wounded. Hays returned to work Friday morning to plaudits from her police chief.(Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

A year after she was shot and badly wounded trying to save a troubled elderly man with a gun, Baltimore County Police First Class Tabitha Hays returned to work Friday to the relief and admiration of her colleagues and bosses.

“She is an inspiration to all of us and a role model for this profession. Tabitha’s return to duty today, on Maryland Fallen Hero’s Day, makes it even more symbolic and special,” Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said.

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Hyatt said "today is a celebration” for Hays and her entire family, calling the veteran officer a “fighter” who worked “incredibly hard” to get back to the job she loves.

Hays was shot by a colleague’s bullet on May 2, 2019, while responding to the home of 76-year-old Robert Uhl Johnson in Parkville. Officers arrived at Johnson’s home in the 3000 block of Linwood Ave. and saw him sitting in a chair facing the front door.

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One officer tried talking to Johnson, who refused to get up or leave the home. Johnson told officers he called 911 and no one else was inside. Police entered and directed Johnson to keep his hands in the air, police said.

Body camera footage of the incident showed Johnson told the officers “I’m sorry I have to do this,” while reaching for his gun. It had no bullets.

Four officers opened fire on Johnson, killing him, and Hays was struck in the upper body. Johnson, who had laid out his will and burial plans, was trying to commit “suicide by cop” police said, and never fired a shot.

Hays comes from a long line of police officers. Her mother, Bernadette DiPino — a fourth-generation officer — is the police chief in Sarasota, Fla.

DiPino traveled to Maryland to be by her daughter’s side when she got a call that she had shot and hospitalized at Shock Trauma.

“On any other year, first responders from around the state would be gathered at the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens and reading the names of our fallen heroes. Instead, this year, we are honoring the return of a hero, Tabitha Hays, an officer that we almost lost a year ago.”

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