A Baltimore police officer remained in critical but stable condition Saturday morning after authorities said somebody approached his personal vehicle and opened fire Friday night, hitting him several times in the upper body and sending him to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center for emergency surgery.
Police offered few details about how the East Baltimore shooting played out. Officials said they believed he was off-duty, and Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said he was "by all indications a bystander."
Robert Cherry, the president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, said he believed the injured officer was assigned to an administrative position in the Eastern District.
"We all know that Baltimore deserves better than this type of violence on our streets," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a late-night news conference Friday.
Dr. Thomas M. Scalea, Shock Trauma's physician-in-chief, said the hospital admitted the officer at about 7:20 p.m. He required a "lot of surgery," said Scalea, who said the officer was stable but "absolutely critical, and we're going to do the best to get him through this and back to his family."
Police said they had only sketchy information about the suspect, but they were carrying out a major search and looking for witnesses. Rodriguez said officers were going door-to-door in the area of the shooting and reviewing footage from area surveillance cameras.
"What's unusual is not having a suspect right away," Cherry said. "Usually when an officer is shot they're returning fire."
Police spokesman Lt. Eric Kowalczyk confirmed in an email Saturday that a suspect description had been broadcast over police radio channels but that officials wanted to confirm its accuracy before releasing it to the public.
He said the department has not released the officer's name out of concern for the safety of him and his family.
"We will put out information when we are able to confirm it is accurate and when that information does not hinder our ability to investigate, find, and charge the person or persons responsible," he said. "While there have been descriptions broadcast over the radio, before we employ the assistance of the public we must ensure that we have an accurate description and that the release of that information does not compromise our investigation."
The incident took place in the 1900 block of Belair Road, just above East North Avenue, and police maintained a heavy presence in the area throughout the evening. Authorities had the shooting scene blocked off about 8 p.m., including a BP gas station at the intersection.
Investigators were also working in the area around a black SUV with its door open.
"I heard ... shots, and I went outside and saw lots of police cars," said bystander Charles Gunther, 76. "It was a big gun, not a little gun."
Rodriguez said the officer has been with the department a very long time and is "a much beloved member of the force."
Friday's shooting was one of a handful that have affected the department in recent years.
Last year, an accidental shooting at a Baltimore County training site seriously wounded University of Maryland campus police recruit Raymond Gray, who had been participating in a city exercise. And in 2011, plainclothes officer William H. Torbit Jr. was killed in a friendly-fire incident during a disturbance outside a downtown club.
In November 2010 a man shot an officer in the chest near the downtown nightlife area. That officer survived the shooting.
In Baltimore County last year, a tactical officer was shot to death during a Catonsville raid. Officer Jason Schneider and a suspect both died in a shootout while police were looking for another suspect at the home.