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Harford Sheriff's deputies shoot off-duty Baltimore County police officer in standoff Thursday

A quiet community in Harford County takes cover in the middle of the day for a tense barricade situation.

Harford County Sheriff's Deputies said they shot and wounded an off-duty Baltimore County Police officer they say was suicidal, and who had shot at them, Thursday afternoon outside a home in the Bright Oaks community off Route 924 south of Bel Air.

The man who was shot, identified as James L. Ward, 42, was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore with injuries that are serious but not considered life-threatening, according to Cristie Kahler, spokesperson for the Harford County Sheriff's Office.

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The Baltimore County Police Department said James L. Ward is an officer first class and a 19-year veteran of the department assigned to the White Marsh precinct.

Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said Ward will be suspended without pay as soon as felony charges are filed by Harford County, the department said in a statement on its website.

"I am shocked and saddened at the actions of one of our officers this afternoon," Johnson said. "I am thankful that none of the first responders and police personnel who handled this call were physically injured. We hope that the Baltimore County officer involved in this incident receives the medical help he apparently needs so desperately."

There are no open Internal Affairs investigations involving Ward, the department said.

Harford Sheriff's Office deputies received a call around 12:10 p.m. Thursday for a suicidal man who had been drinking heavily, Kahler said.

Several shots from a handgun had been fired inside the house in the 200 block of Stratton Court during a domestic dispute before deputies arrived, she said. No injuries were reported as a result of those shots.

Deputies establishing a perimeter around the house and safeguarding nearby residents heard a number of additional shots, prompting them to call the Special Response Team of the Sheriff's Office Special Operations Division.

Neighborhood streets were blocked off and the Sheriff's Office used social media to advise residents to shelter in place.

SRT members and the Crisis Negotiation Team negotiated with Ward, who remained inside the house, according to Kahler.

Around 2:40 p.m., when phone conversations with Ward had ceased, Ward then fired multiple rounds toward deputies who were taking cover in the Sheriff's Office tactical rescue vehicle, Kahler said.

Two deputies fired back, hitting Ward, who then exited the residence and was arrested.

No deputies or civilians were injured, Kahler said.

Ward was treated by medics from Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company then taken by ambulance under police escort to Patterson Mill High and Middle School, a short distance away, where the Maryland State Police Medevac landed on the school's football field.

Kahler said a comprehensive investigation is being conducted.

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The deputies involved, who she did not identify, have been placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation, Kahler said.

During the incident, dismissal of students at nearby schools was coordinated with Harford County Public Schools to ensure the safety of all students, the Sheriff's Office said.

Thursday's incident was the second in seven weeks in which Harford Sheriff's Office deputies have shot a person who was believed to be armed and suicidal.

On March 2, special operations deputies fatally shot a 36-year-old staff sergeant from Aberdeen Proving Ground after he rushed at them following a 2 1/2-hour standoff at his home on Althea Court, which is also south of Bel Air not far from the scene of Thursday's shooting.

The victim, Travis Boyd Bradley, was believed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Sheriff's Office officials said. Firearms were found in Bradley's home after the shooting.

Aegis staff members Matt Button, Bryna Zumer and David Anderson contributed to this report.

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