A plainclothes Baltimore City police officer was shot twice in the face last night while attempting to make an undercover drug purchase in the Seton Hill neighborhood, officials said. The officer, a seven-year veteran of the force, was rushed to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was in critical but stable condition last night. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
The 33-year-old officer and his partner, also in plain clothes, were at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Orchard Street shortly after 8 p.m. when they saw a group of people who appeared to be involved in drug transactions, said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III.
The officer was shot in the jaw and cheek when he tried to make an undercover purchase, Bealefeld said. His partner returned fire and hit at least one of the suspects, according to police. As the suspects fled, the second officer helped his wounded partner, who was conscious and speaking after the shooting. He was conscious until he was placed under anesthesia for treatment at Shock Trauma.
Bealefeld, Mayor Sheila Dixon and the officer's wife and parents were at the hospital last night. The officer, whose name was not released, was undergoing tests to determine the extent of his injuries and to see whether surgery would be necessary, said Dr. James O'Connor of Shock Trauma.
Bealefeld said that shortly after the shooting, two people with gunshot wounds showed up at area hospitals. It is not known whether they are connected to the shooting of the officer, but the department is investigating, Bealefeld said.
No arrests were made last night but police took people in for questioning.
Dixon, speaking outside Shock Trauma last night after visiting with the officer's family, said the city's prayers are with the wounded officer and his family. "This incident just indicates that our officers are out there and working hard every day to make the city safe, going after the bad guys," she said.
Police shut down several blocks surrounding the scene of the shooting, including Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Druid Hill Avenue, while they investigated.
Officers from several districts responded to the scene while a police helicopter swept the area for more than an hour after the shooting. The Orchard Mews apartment complex, at the corner of Orchard Street and Druid Hill Avenue, is in the same block as the shooting.
Police spokeswoman Nicole Monroe said the wounded officer is a member of the Police Department's Operations Unit but had no further details.
There have been two police-involved shootings this year. City police shot 21 people last year, 13 fatally - the same number killed in 2007, according to police statistics.
A city officer was last shot in the line of duty on Jan. 31, 2007, when an officer accidentally discharged his weapon, shooting another officer in his protective vest. The officer's vest stopped the bullet and he was not seriously injured.
On Jan. 9, 2007, Detective Troy Lamont Chesley Sr. was shot and killed outside his girlfriend's home in Northwest Baltimore. A 23-year-old Baltimore man, Brandon Grimes, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.