Officer shot in Howard arrest; Man rams cars, drives against traffic in 35-minute chase


A Howard County police officer was accidentally shot yesterday during an attempted drug arrest that ended in Baltimore County after a chase through residential neighborhoods, police said.

At one point, the man sought by police made several U-turns on busy U.S. 29, and drove his rented 2000 Chrysler sedan north in the southbound lanes, going the wrong way up a single-lane ramp behind Golden Triangle Shopping Center to eastbound U.S. 40.

Sgt. John Superson, a police spokesman, said no one else was injured despite the man's repeated ramming of police vehicles and numerous other collisions during the 35-minute episode. The wounded officer, rookie Ann E. Giardina, was treated and released at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after being hit in the leg.

The man led police on a 15-mile chase that began on U.S. 1 in Elkridge, went through residential areas in the Montgomery Woods neighborhood and along Montgomery Road before turning east on U.S. 40, where he was captured in a shopping center parking lot near Rolling Road.

The man was identified as Lawrence Thomas III, 24, of the 200 block of Warfield Road in Glen Burnie, Superson said.

"It started as a basic traffic stop," he said, but ended with at least five other vehicles damaged after a chase in which the man "went the wrong way and drove on the shoulder" of residential streets -- several times crossing sidewalks and lawns, police said.

Two police vehicles had to be towed.

"I looked up and I saw a guy in a black T-shirt come out of a black truck and start shooting," said Gilbert Maalous, 20, who watched the events from his uncle's used-car dealership less than 50 feet away.

"I heard like five or six gunshots, then a pause and more gunshots. It looked like the guy in black was a police officer chasing another car," Maalous said.

Thomas was taken to Howard County's Southern District station for booking while officers tried to sort out the series of events. Superson said suspected crack cocaine was recovered from the Chrysler.

He said the uniformed officer pulled Thomas over about 4 p.m. near a McDonald's restaurant on U.S. 1 after plainclothes county detectives who were following him decided to make an arrest.

The man stopped, but then made a U-turn on busy Washington Boulevard to head north. Before he could escape, two detectives in separate vehicles moved to block his path in front and back.

But the man began ramming both police vehicles to try to create room to drive off, police said. The detectives, fearing injury, left their vehicles and began shooting when the man appeared to aim his car at them, Superson said.

One bullet hit the uniformed officer, he said, as the man drove off, leaving the highway for nearby residential streets. With a police helicopter in pursuit, he wove his way south to Route 103 and headed east toward Ellicott City, Superson said, eventually merging onto U.S. 29 and then to U.S. 40.

Along the way he hit at least three civilian cars, and officers sometimes warned each other by police radio to back off to prevent further damage.

The man continued east on U.S. 40 and pulled into the parking lot of a Home Depot, where officers said, "The car's breaking up." Seconds later, with the help of Baltimore County police who had joined the chase, he was in handcuffs.

The last time Howard police could remember an officer being shot was in May 1961. Patrolman Randolph Brightwell, 34, was killed by two suspects in a gas station holdup.

Sun staff reporters Liz Atwood, David Nitkin and Lisa Respers contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 5/06/00

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