Aberdeen Police Officer Jason Easton has a long way to go before he recovers from an injury to his eye when he was shot in the face early Friday morning, but the 10-year veteran is determined to return to duty, according to a police department spokesperson.
"This is a very significant injury that he experienced, and it's going to require a protracted period of treatment," Aberdeen Police Sgt. Will Reiber said Tuesday.
Easton remains in high spirits, as he and his family receive an outpouring of support from fellow officers and the extended community, Reiber said.
"What I find to be the most impressive thing is his ability to still be very positive, and he has a strong desire to return in the capacity of a law enforcement officer," he said.
Easton was shot around 3 a.m. Friday while investigating a resident's complaint of a "suspicious person" in the 500 block of Ohio Court, according to police charging documents.
The shooter fled the scene, leading to a manhunt that involved multiple area police agencies and a mutual decision by Aberdeen Police and Harford County Public Schools officials to cancel classes at the city's three elementary schools, the high and middle schools and the alternative education center. Two suspects were arrested later in the day, one around 10:30 a.m., the other around 4 p.m.
Easton was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where he underwent surgery later that day. He was released from the hospital Saturday and will need follow-up medical care, possibly additional surgery, according to Brendan Hopkins, a family friend.
Hopkins, a former police officer, who was recently elected to the Bel Air Board of Town Commissioners, set up the "Officer Jason Easton Support Fund" page on GoFundMe, which had received over $7,200 in pledges as of Tuesday evening.
People all over the country have made contributions. Easton and his family plan to donate any leftover funds to a local benevolent association to support public safety officers, according to Hopkins, who asked everyone attending Monday night's Bel Air town meeting to remember Easton in their prayers.
"They're the type of family that always gives, whether its delivering food bags to the homeless, collecting donations for other families that are in need, so they're just kind of in shock that people would do this for them," Hopkins said.
The two men charged with the shooting remained in jail Tuesday.
Tyler Testerman, 21, of the 800 block of Tydings Road in Havre de Grace, is suspected of shooting Easton, a 10-year veteran of the Aberdeen department. Also charged is Scott Patrick Lawrence, 26, of the 3800 block of Washington Avenue in Abingdon, whom police believe was present when the shooting occurred and allegedly drove Testerman from the scene.
Testerman and Lawrence are both charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of attempted second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault on a public safety officer, two more counts of second-degree assault and one count of reckless endangerment, according to court records.
During bail review hearings Monday afternoon, Harford County District Court Judge Mimi Cooper refused to grant bail for Testerman, but set bail of $750,000 for Lawrence.
Charging documents state that in interviews with Testerman's girlfriend, police learned he was in the company of Lawrence when Testerman began receiving text messages from the Ohio Court resident and that the two men allegedly went to "confront" the sender.
According to the charging documents, the dispute between Testerman and the man on Ohio Court was over allegedly "sexually explicit" texts to a relative of Testerman.
According to charging documents, Easton arrived at the Ohio Court home and was talking with the resident, who had called police, when he "encountered a while male subject standing in the wood line wearing a white camouflage jacket."
"The subject in the wood line then opened fire" on both the officer and the resident, according to the charging documents. Easton, the documents state, sustained "a critical eye injury to his upper torso."
An Aberdeen Police detective, who responded to the scene, interviewed the resident, who said he had been in an argument earlier with a friend named "Tyler" and that the two had exchanged multiple text messages, according to charging documents. The resident showed some of the text messages to the detective, whose own name was in one of them, according to the documents.
The resident was shown a photo of Testerman from social media, according to the charging documents, and identified Testerman as the one who allegedly sent the messages.
Online court records show Testerman was charged Sept. 29, 2012, with fourth-degree burglary, theft under $10,000, and other violations in a case where Easton was the arresting officer, The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday. He was found guilty of theft on Feb. 26, 2013 and sentenced to eight months in prison.
Police, however, don't suspect Easton was targeted, APD spokesman Reiber said.
"The motive in this was retaliation for the incendiary text messages that were sent to the family member [of Testerman]," he said. "The outcome changed when law enforcement arrived, but initially this was hostilities between the two parties – Testerman and the victim."
Testerman is on probation, according to Reiber, who said he spoke to Testerman's probation officer.
According to court records, in a case dating from July 20, 2012, Testerman pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary on Oct. 23, 2013, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with 12 years suspended, plus five years of supervised probation upon his release.
"Mr. Testerman was released on June 29, 2015 to mandatory supervision. This means by law he had to complete his sentence under Parole and Probation supervision," Mark Vernarelli, a Parole and Probation spokesperson, said via email Tuesday. "He had been compliant under supervision, and the agent had done a good job of monitoring his case."