Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Howard officer shoots woman

The Baltimore Sun

A 62-year-old woman was shot yesterday by police responding to the senior citizen apartment complex in Columbia where she lived, according to Howard County police.

Pearl Wardell Harris was "acting erratically," said Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman, who described Harris as a "mental subject."

A property manager from the complex, Park View at Snowden River, called 911 about 4:30 p.m. to report a disturbance in one of the apartments. Police responded to the four-story facility in the 8600 block of Snowden River Parkway and called in a mobile crisis team, Llewellyn said.

"During that interaction, the officer felt threatened," Llewellyn said, adding that a knife was recovered at the scene. Police did not release any details about the knife.

"The officers believed they were in physical danger. ... Our officers are trained to use force only when they feel physically threatened," she said.

The officer fired one bullet, Llewellyn said. Harris, who was hit in the lower torso, was flown by helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, Llewellyn said.

Harris was initially listed in serious condition at Shock Trauma, but last night was upgraded to stable.

A relative of Harris' was in the unit at the time of the shooting, Llewellyn said.

Police said last night that they expect to release the name today of the officer involved in the shooting.

The officer is being placed on administrative leave, which is the department's policy in the case of a police-involved shooting. All the officers who were at the scene were being interviewed by police last night, Llewellyn said.

Last night, residents said they were shocked to learn about the shooting.

"It's pretty scary," said Mary Loder, who moved in Saturday. "My son-in-law called me to tell me he heard it on the news."

Peggy O'Shea, who said she has lived in Park View for about a year, said she was home at the time of the shooting but did not hear the gunshot.

She said Harris has lived in the complex for a couple of months and described her as a "very nice woman."

"We were a little taken aback, but I'm personally saddened by it," she said.

O'Shea said the incident was frightening but won't change her opinion of living in the community, which consists of 99 units and is for people ages 62 and older.

"The apartments are nice, and everything is very peaceful," she said. "It's not scary to live here at all. I feel very comfortable."

The complex is owned by the Shelter Group, a national real estate development and property management company specializing in multifamily complexes and rental communities for seniors. The company operates dozens of facilities for seniors in Maryland and has its headquarters in Baltimore, according to the company's Web site.

Yesterday's incident was the second police-involved shooting in Howard County in less than a month. On April 8, two teenage boys were shot by an undercover officer conducting drug surveillance in a Jessup neighborhood.

Police said the officer accidentally fired his gun as he was stepping out of his car to confront the boys - ages 15 and 14 - about what he believed to be a drug deal. A single bullet struck both boys. The shooting is under investigation by the department's internal affairs division.

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