A 32-year-old Howard County police officer working a speed-enforcement detail on Route 32 in Savage was struck by a car and critically injured yesterday.
Pfc. Scott Wheeler, a veteran of 6 1/2 years on the force, was reported in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center last night, said Howard County police spokesman Major Gary Gardner.
Wheeler and two other officers were checking for speeding vehicles traveling east on Route 32 near U.S. 1. Wheeler was attempting to flag down a driver when he was struck by a Nissan Sentra about 2 p.m. He suffered head injuries and was flown to Shock Trauma.
The 24-year-old woman driving the Sentra pulled over after the incident. Police questioned her and no charges have been filed. The investigation is continuing, authorities said.
"We suffered a real tragedy here in Howard County when an officer was seriously injured trying to protect people on the roadways," said Howard County Chief of Police William McMahon. "He was in the process of flagging a violator over for a speeding violation, at which time he was struck."
Wheeler, who was married in September, normally works night shifts in the southern Howard County police district. In December 2002, he was named Howard County's Police Officer of the Month, in part for capturing suspects in an attempted armed robbery at a Bennigan's restaurant in Columbia.
The department singled him out in a citation for his "consistent good judgment and dedication" in the line of duty.
"He's a good, solid officer. Easy-going, did his job well," said Daniel Besseck, secretary of the Howard County Police Officers Association and a longtime patrol officer. "He's one of those guys who everybody knew, everybody liked."
Wheeler's wife, parents, friends and fellow officers were at the hospital, McMahon said. Howard County police officials said Wheeler lives in Millersville.
Police spokeswoman Pfc. Jennifer Reidy said the three Howard County police officers were following proper procedures for traffic stops.
Brad McQuay, who has served with the Harford County Sheriff's Department for about five years and has often worked traffic enforcement, said the job can be frightening at night. "There are a million things in that car that can direct your attention away from the roadway," said McQuay.
In 2005, a Howard County auxiliary officer was injured when he was struck by a car and subsequently lost a leg.