A 26-year-old Lanham man was arrested yesterday and charged in the execution-style slaying of a Prince George's County police officer, remembered yesterday as a "fun-loving guy" who started his career in Baltimore.
Jeffrey Curtis Gilbert, 26, was charged with first-degree murder after police officers raided a Greenbelt apartment. The arrest occurred hours after police interviewed several witnesses.
Acting Police Chief Alphonso Hawkins said Mr. Gilbert "violently resisted officers' attempts to arrest him." According to police, Mr. Gilbert suffered a broken nose and several bruises in the "struggle" with police. He was listed in stable condition at Prince George's Hospital Center yesterday and was expected to be held overnight.
Cpl. John J. Novabilski, 31, was shot several times in the head and upper body Wednesday night as he sat in his patrol car while working overtime as a security guard for a Landover liquor store.
Chief Hawkins and Gov. Parris N. Glendening termed the slaying an assassination. At a news conference yesterday, the chief called the suspect a "violent, heartless individual."
Corporal Novabilski, who grew up in Pennsylvania, was a patrol officer in the Baltimore Police Department in 1985 and 1986.
"He liked to have a good time. He was dedictated to police work, so he did a good job," said Baltimore Officer Tim Wade, who worked with the slain officer in the Western District.
Officer Wade remembered his colleague yesterday as a "jokester and prankster" who went to the Prince George's County department for more money and better equipment.
He liked the policy that allows officers to take their patrol cars home. He was off duty and using the patrol car on his after-hours job when he was shot.
Corporal Novabilski was working Wednesday night at Palmer's Restaurant and Liquor in the 7200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Highway. About 11:30 p.m., police said the man walked up to the patrol car and opened fire on the officer through the driver's side window.
Police discounted reports that the officer and suspect had argued several hours before the shooting.
Lt. Charles A. Pollock, Prince George's County police spokesman, said the suspect used a fully automatic Mac-11 assault pistol, which is capable of 20 rounds per second. The spokesman said it is "very unusual" for that type of weapon to show up on streets, even in the crime-ridden areas near Washington.
The lieutenant refused to say how many shots were fired or how many times the officer was hit. Police said Corporal Novabilski's department-issued semiautomatic 9 mm Beretta handgun was stolen. Investigators said they have not recovered either weapon.
Corporal Novabilski was taken to the Prince George's Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead at 11:51 p.m.
After interviewing witnesses, including one man who chased the suspect, police burst into an apartment in the 6100 block of Springhill Terrace in Greenbelt and made the arrest.
Since 1988, Mr. Gilbert has been charged nine times with crimes that include robbery and drug possession. He has three convictions for drug possession, and in 1988, he was given a three-year suspended sentence.
Last month, Mr. Gilbert was charged with two counts of drug possession, which are pending in Prince George's County.
Corporal Novabilski's funeral has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, at 16510 Annapolis Road in Bowie.