Howard County police are reviewing the handling of an attempted drug arrest that went awry in Elkridge on Friday, leaving one officer shot and a string of vehicles battered after a wild car chase through Ellicott City ended at a Home Depot parking lot in Catonsville.
In Howard District Court yesterday, Judge C. James Sfekasordered Lawrence Thomas III, 24, of Glen Burnie held without bail. Thomas is facing 10 charges, including two counts of attempted first-degree murder for allegedly trying to hit two Howard detectives with his rented Chrysler sedan.
Although a police account filed in court documents states that Thomas had a "quantity" of crack cocaine in his car, was identified by an informant before his arrest and was followed by a helicopter and automobiles after an "observed and verified drug transaction," Thomas' mother said yesterday he is innocent.
Barbara J. Kirbysaid after the bail review hearing that her son told her he had no drugs and fled only because police shot at him. "Whoever heard of a drug dealer without a gun?" she said.
Police Chief Wayne Livesay said Officer Ann E. Giardinawas three weeks out of the police academy and working in uniform in a marked patrol car when her attempt to stop a man, later identified as Thomas, turned violent.
Giardina, a marathon runner, was treated and released at Maryland Shock Trauma Center and is recuperating at home. She has a bullet lodged in her lower right leg, Livesay said. Doctors want to let the swelling subside before determining whether and how the bullet should be removed.
Giardina was likely shot by a police bullet that might have ricocheted, Livesay said. The three officers involved fired no more than "three or four shots," he said, although the review of police actions will take several weeks to complete.
"They may have done everything right," he said, adding that the review must be done because "something didn't work. We had an officer injured."
During a County Council review of the police budget yesterday, Livesay said the suspect would have escaped if it weren't for the helicopter pursuit. Howard County has a cooperative agreement with Anne Arundel County to share use of Anne Arundel's helicopter.
Officers pursuing the maroon Chrysler on the ground lost sight of the car several times before it was stopped in Baltimore County, Livesay said, as the fleeing driver sped across sidewalks and lawns, made numerous U-turns and raced north in the southbound lanes of U.S. 29 during the chase. Two police vehicles and at least three civilian cars were damaged, police said.
According to a police account, Thomas was followed as he drove into Baltimore City and then back to Howard County. Police later said they had been keeping tabs on Thomas since early last month and had surveillance on him for more than an hour before the attempted arrest. Told by an informant during the surveillance that the suspect was transporting cocaine, police decided to use Giardina to make what they hoped would appear to be a routine traffic stop and arrest the driver.
Police said that after Giardina made the stop, Thomas tried to drive off. When undercover detectives moved to box in his car, leaving their vehicles, he allegedly rammed their vehicles and drove toward them. Each detective fired at least one shot, and Giardina also fired, Livesay said. It was not clear which bullet hit the officer.
Kirby said her son, who is black and lives with her, is the victim of racial profiling and could be the victim of mistaken identity. She said he had dropped her off at work in Glen Burnie two hours before the 4:19 p.m. incident and told her he was going to look for a new car.
He never understood, she said, that he was being stopped by police.