A 33-year-old businessman, who last October led Baltimore County police on a chase through Lansdowne in which he ran over one officer and tried to ram the cars of other officers, pleaded guilty yesterday to assault.
Gene Cameron Wood of the 3100 block of Bero Road in Lansdowne pleaded guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court to assaulting an officer with intent to avoid lawful apprehension. The maximum penalty is 15 years in prison.
Assistant State's Attorney James O'C. Gentry agreed to drop 20 other charges, including attempted murder, and said he would seek a four- to nine-year prison term for Wood. Judge Dana Mark Levitz scheduled sentencing for Sept. 7.
Wood and his attorney, Thomas C. Morrow, told the judge that he was using cocaine at the time the crimes occurred. It was just after midnight, Oct. 26, at the Circle Terrace Apartments on Lakebrook Circle. Two officers, moonlighting as plainclothes security guards, spotted Wood's van driving around the complex, its headlights off. Wood and his attorney say he didn't know it was the police following him.
By the time the two officers called in uniformed officers and a K-9 unit, Wood panicked and kept driving, Mr. Morrow said.
After winding in and out of the apartment complex, Wood led the officers to a Royal Farms store near Hollins Ferry and Hammonds Ferry roads. There the officers got out of their cars and approached Wood's van. He backed up, pinning all three officers. Cpl. Ricky Whitmire's left ankle was run over by the van, but not broken. Wood fled, followed by five police cars. Several times he aimed his van at police cars and hit them as the chase continued northbound on Interstate 695 to Washington Boulevard, then to a dead end on Old Sulphur Spring Road.
There, the defense attorney and the prosecutor said, three of the officers fired six shots into the van -- after they heard a gunshot and saw a sergeant covered with what appeared to be blood. The sergeant had fired at a tire as the van backed toward him, and had been spattered with mud, they said.
Mr. Morrow said he was "thankful in this case that Gene Wood wasn't killed, because [others] have been killed for really not doing anything but panicking and trying to escape."
Wood, who owns a carpet installation business, was disabled for a time because he was shot in the hand and wrist, Mr. Morrow said. Insurance wouldn't cover physical therapy because the injury is considered a condition he caused himself, Mr. Morrow said.