Three teen-agers were charged with first-degree murder in the death yesterday of an off-duty Baltimore police officer who was gunned down during a shootout inside a carryout restaurant, police said.
Investigators said the youths had already "cased" the Jung Hing Carryout in the 1500 block of N. Gay St. and were waiting for a customer to rob when 50-year-old Officer Herman A. Jones Sr. entered the restaurant.
"We believe the officer was the intended victim," police spokesman Sam Ringgold said. "I'm not sure if they knew he was an officer, but they found out very quickly."
The 23-year veteran had just gotten off his 4-to-midnight shift and was still in his police uniform, partially covered by a blue wind
breaker. He was still wearing his bulletproof vest, police said.
Two youths were in the carryout pretending to read a wall menu when they grabbed the officer and pushed him into a corner, police said. The third youth then entered the carryout and pointed a .38-caliber pistol at Officer Jones, police said.
Either accidentally or in an attempt to distract the youths, the officer dropped several personal items, including his key rings, money clip, a pen knife and two packs of Tic-Tacs, police said. When the youths began picking them up, Officer Jones pulled out his gun.
In an exchange of gunfire, Officer Jones shot two of his assailants and was himself shot twice. One bullet struck his left knee and another entered his left thigh, ripped through his femoral artery and came out his right hip, police said.
The officer got off five shots before being felled, police said.
As the mortally wounded man lay on the ground, one of the youths took Officer Jones' 9-mm Glock pistol and ran from the pTC store with the other two youths, police said. The officer died two hours later in surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Charged yesterday as adults with murder and handgun violations were Herbert "Squeaky" Wilson, 17, of the 2100 block of E. Biddle St.; Clifton "Chip" Price, 17, of the 1600 block of N. Montford Ave.; and Derrick N. Broadway, 16, of the 1800 block of Aiken St.
The Broadway youth was arrested after police followed a trail of blood for four blocks.
The Wilson and Price youths were arrested at their homes about 6 a.m. yesterday, police said. They were being held on no bail at the Eastern District.
Police said the Wilson youth was thought to have been the shooter. They said he was shot in the right thigh and treated and released at Hopkins. Derrick Broadway, shot in the shoulder and upper chest, was in stable condition at Hopkins, police said.
Detectives interviewed Herbert Wilson and Clifton Price, who told them the three had been "prowling the streets looking for victims, had cased a nearby pizza shop and then noticed Officer Jones . . . and decided to rob [him]," a police report said.
Officer Jones, a Central District officer who walked foot patrols in an increasingly heavy crime area of downtown, grew up in East Baltimore and often stopped by the Jung Hing carryout in his old neighborhood, family and friends said.
"That was one of his favorite stops after work," said Clinton Stewart, 50, a fellow Central District officer and a friend who had known Officer Jones for 23 years.
"He worked in one of the roughest areas of town, but this happened after work, when he went to his old neighborhood to just get something to eat."
Officer Stewart, a member of the Vanguard Justice Society Inc., which represents about 550 black officers, said Officer Jones was a founding member of the group in 1971.
A former football player at Baltimore City College, Officer Jones was a soft-spoken man who spent most of his spare time either at home or on an occasional fishing trip, said his wife of 26 years, Linda Jones.
The couple lived in the Hamilton section of Northeast Baltimore. Both their children are grown.
"He was a quiet kind of guy, he really was," she said. "In the last three years, he said he was considering retiring. It might have been because it was getting rough [on the street] but those are my words, not his. He was quiet about that."
Officer Jones regularly walked his beat around Eutaw and Howard streets downtown, making regular contact with merchants who he said recently were growing more and more fearful of crime.
"He preferred the street. He was the type of policeman they're trying to model neighborhood policing after," Officer Stewart said. "It was important to him to walk his beat. He grew up here. He was part of the Baltimore community."
Officer Jones is Baltimore's 134th homicide victim of 1993, compared with 118 at this time last year, the city's worst year ever for murder.