After abducting his ex-girlfriend from a Baltimore day care center, a spurned lover led police on a wild, high-speed chase along Interstate 95 yesterday morning, shooting a city police officer and the woman before taking his own life on the side of the busy highway.
John Ellsworth Porter III, 31, a warehouse worker with a history of violence against women, was pronounced dead at the chaotic midmorning scene near the Caton Avenue exit of I-95. He had been stalking his ex-girlfriend for weeks before abducting her yesterday, police said.
Officer Eric Paul Dawson, 37, was shot in the neck when he pulled alongside Porter's Ford Bronco. Surgeons treated the 13-year veteran of the force and sent him home early yesterday afternoon, the bullet still lodged in his neck.
Cornered by police on I-95, Porter shot his estranged girlfriend, Karen C. Parker, 24, at point-blank range once in the forehead, but the bullet did not pierce her skull. Surgeons removed the small-caliber slug at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. She was listed in satisfactory and stable condition last night.
"This is wild," Dr. Phil Militello said earlier in the day. "If you look at her, she's got a bullet wound in the middle of her forehead. I retracted the bullet. It did not go in."
The episode began about 9 a.m., shortly after Ms. Parker dropped her 3-year-old daughter, Paula Bayne, at the Catholic Community Day Care Center at 112 E. West St., center director Michele Van Detta said.
It was a regular routine that Porter monitored, according to workers at the day care center, just south of Federal Hill on a quiet, tree-lined block adjacent to Holy Cross Catholic Church. The workers said they had spotted Porter outside the center during the past two weeks.
L The two had dated for about a year and split up in February.
"He's been stalking her," said Howard Bayne, Ms. Parker's former boyfriend and Paula's father. "He was constantly wanting to be with her."
Outside the day care center, Porter confronted his ex-girlfriend, police said. He pulled a .32-caliber pistol, forced her into his 1987 Ford Bronco and sped away, they said. A witness called police at 9:15 a.m. Officer Dawson, who was a few blocks away, spotted the Bronco.
With a helicopter and other patrol cars in pursuit, the officer caught up with Porter on I-95, just north of the Interstate-895 exit in Howard County. Porter was speeding south in the left hand shoulder. The officer pulled up alongside.
Porter started to aim his pistol at the police officer. Ms. Parker later told friends from her hospital room that she tried to prevent Porter from firing but didn't succeed.
"[Officer Dawson] was going to go in front of him to see if he could slow him down," said Sgt. Joseph W. Weber of the Southern District. "The guy was in the far left lane of 95. He was actually on the shoulder between the lane and the median."
Officer Dawson heard the couple shouting in the Bronco, followed by two "pops."
Glass shattered everywhere. One bullet struck Officer Dawson in theneck.
"I'm shot, I'm shot," he radioed to his colleagues.
He pulled his cruiser to the left side of the southbound lanes. The driver's-side window later looked as if someone had punched a hole through it, leaving a circle of jagged edges. Shards of safety glass littered the inside of the patrol car.
Brent Hopkins, a Montgomery County volunteer firefighter, stopped at the scene to help the injured officer until paramedics and a MedEvac helicopter arrived. He was returning to his Silver Spring home after visiting relatives in New Jersey. He said he applied pressure to the wound on the back of the officer's neck to help stop the bleeding.
"He was all right," Mr. Hopkins said. "He was able to talk to me."
Porter kept speeding south. He found an emergency pathway through the median strip and wheeled his Bronco around. He headed north back to Baltimore, a caravan of police cars close behind, the helicopter overhead. Porter turned around again at Interstate 395. Now he was heading south on I-95.
The patrol cars closed in, boxing off the Bronco. Near Caton Avenue, Porter lost control of his truck and collided with a squad car.
"Once he stopped, police cars converged around him," Sergeant Weber said. "As the officers were getting out, they heard bang-bang."
Porter shot Ms. Parker once in the head. Then he turned the gun on himself.
The chase caused spectacular tie-ups on the interstates, clogging traffic on I-95 between Route 175 and the Fort McHenry Tunnel for at least 90 minutes.
At one point, Porter made a U-turn in the middle of I-95.
Daniel Railey was one of the unwilling witnesses to the chase.
"At first, when I saw the Bronco, I was thinking the Bronco didn'tknow the traffic was going against him," said Mr. Railey, a maintenance worker for the Baltimore City Bureau of Parks and Recreation, who was entering I-95 at Washington Boulevard. "Then I saw that it was a chase. I was coming up the exit ramp. I pulled over to the side.
"All I heard was 'pop! pop!' " Mr. Railey said.
Porter was pronounced dead at the scene.
Porter, who grew up in South Baltimore, was 6 years old when his parents divorced, court records show.
He and his four brothers and sisters were reared by their mother. For the past four or five years, he had lived at 2445 Washington Blvd. in Morrell Park in Southwest Baltimore and once worked at a nearby Montgomery Ward warehouse.
Neighbors described him as short, stocky man who kept to himself, shopped at the American Supermarket, never hung around Skeeter'sBar and once walked a Rottweiler named Spike around the neighborhood.
"I never got into his personal business; we just talked, you know, shooting the breeze," neighbor John Imbrogulio said. "Ain't much you can say about a guy like that."
A next-door neighbor said Porter helped her with small home repairs and chores.
"What really happened, I don't know," Marie Starun, 71, said. "For a split second, he went off his rocker. I knew he was upset about Karen. I know she left him, but I don't know why."
Ms. Parker was flown to Shock Trauma. Doctors said they were amazed that the bullet didn't penetrate her skull. They removed the slug without causing any brain damage.
It wasn't Porter's first episode of violence.
In 1991, he was convicted of making telephone threats and assaulting another old girlfriend, Stephanie Delores McLeod. Porter received probation in the case.
Ms. McLeod also filed for custody of the couple's daughter, Tiffany,now 5.
In court papers, she said she feared for her life and for the safety of her child.
She said Porter chased her down Reisterstown Road on March 4, 1991, cut her off and ripped the side-view mirror from her car. She also accused Porter of using drugs and selling them for a living.
"He is very abusive," she said in court papers.
The attorney who handled Porter's case said his former client never meant to harm Ms. McLeod in 1991.
He said Porter was frustrated by the custody case and simply wanted to see his little girl.
"I'm competely stunned by this," lawyer J. Bernard McClellan said yesterday. "He certainly never impressed me as someone who was as unstable as this."