A Baltimore County police officer was killed in a confrontation Monday as she responded to an afternoon call in Perry Hall, setting off an hours-long manhunt for suspects as police searched densely populated suburban neighborhoods.
The officer’s death prompted outcry throughout the state, and the search left nearly 2,000 students stranded in their schools well into the evening as police looked for the suspects, considered armed and dangerous. Authorities continued to search for the suspects Monday night but did not say how many there were.
Police would not confirm what types of injuries were suffered by the officer, a four-year veteran assigned to the Parkville precinct. A witness saw the officer, whose name has not been released, get hit by a vehicle.
Details remained unclear Monday night. Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan said the officer was responding to a call for a possible burglary involving four suspects. However, a police spokesman said the call was for a report of a suspicious vehicle.
Investigators will review body camera footage to determine what happened, Sheridan said.
“This is a bad time in the United States for law enforcement,” Sheridan said at a news conference at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, where the officer died Monday afternoon.
Police were “working grids” in the area as they searched for the suspects, Sheridan said.
“It’s a densely populated area with a lot of stream valleys and places where people can hide,” said County Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican who lives nearby. “My heart just goes out to the family of this police officer who has been taken from us.”
At about 1 a.m. Tuesday, a section of Belair Road that had been shut down by the manhunt had reopened, and the Maryland State Highway Administration reported that the investigation had ended. Although the search for suspects in the area is ongoing, said Corporal Jim Elliott, spokesman for Baltimore County Police, "they’ve scaled down quite a bit.”
Police did not release a description of the suspects. They said Monday night that they recovered a Jeep that was involved in the crime. Police would not confirm whether the car had been stolen or how many people were inside it, but believe the car was also involved in an earlier burglary.
Homicide detectives were working with aviation, canine units, and heat sensing technology to search for the suspects — at least one — along Belair Road as night fell, police spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson said. “The dark will not hamper our investigation.” Vinson expressed hope that the officer’s body camera footage could be used to identify the suspects. “We’re going to be investigating this throughout the night, all day tomorrow,” he said.
Roads in the area were shut down, and residents were told to shelter in place.
Meanwhile, more than 1,900 students at several schools in the Perry Hall area remained in school for hours after dismissal as the search continued. County school officials informed parents around 7:30 p.m. that they could pick up their children.
Sheridan said the schools were locked for the safety of the children.
Baltimore County Public Schools announced in an early-morning tweet that all county schools would open on time Tuesday, with more police than usual present at schools.
While the officer’s family remained at Medstar Franklin Square, Vinson said, the officer’s body has been taken to the Medical Examiner’s officer for autopsy. He said he could not confirm reports that she had been hit by the Jeep until after the autopsy had been completed and the body camera footage reviewed.
Vinson could not disclose the victim’s identity but said July would have marked the officer’s fourth anniversary with the department.
“It’s shocking,” Vinson said of the death. “But reassuring to see how the police family comes together.” He said officers from the area had been coming to the hospital all day to pay their respects.
The incident began to unfold just before 2 p.m., when police received a call for a suspicious vehicle on Linwen Way, Vinson said.
The officer who responded was critically injured, he said, but did not describe what happened. She was taken to Franklin Square, where she was pronounced dead at 2:50 p.m., Vinson said.
A resident of the neighborhood told The Baltimore Sun his son saw the officer struck by a vehicle.
Tony Kurek, 54, had just walked in the door of his home when his son, Dakota, shouted for him. “ ‘Dad, Dad, a cop just got run over out front,’ ” the father recalled his son saying.
The officer was lying in the road in front of his house, he said. Dakota told his father he had seen the officer draw her gun on a black Jeep Wrangler and ordered the people inside to get out.
Instead, the driver sped forward, ramming the officer with the vehicle. She landed about 20 feet away. “She basically landed almost in front of my mailbox,” Kurek said.
Tony Kurek called 911. He screamed expletives into the phone: “You got a cop laying in the road dying,” he told them.
Another son, Logan, a volunteer firefighter, began doing CPR.
Tony Kurek said he “won’t soon forget” the look on the officer’s eyes as his son worked to revive her. “I had a very, very bad feeling that she was going or gone.”
“She was young. It just breaks your heart,” he said.
Kurek said glass and one shell casing were found outside, and that his son and neighbors had heard the pop of shots fired. But he didn’t know whether the officer or someone in the car had pulled the trigger.
The neighborhood remained on lockdown for an hour after the incident, Kurek said. He and neighbors were told not to leave their homes.
Vinson, the police spokesman, said a home on Linwen Way had damage to a patio door, though police don't yet know whether that was the same home where the call to police was made.
“We are actively following up several leads,” Vinson said.
The officer’s death comes at a tumultuous time for Baltimore County government. Less than two weeks ago, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who was running for governor, died unexpectedly after going into cardiac arrest.
County Administrative Officer Fred Homan became acting county executive after Kamenetz’s death. Homan was present at the evening news conference at the hospital but did not speak publicly there.
“It is a sad day in Baltimore County as we mourn the loss of a police officer who died in the line of duty,” Homan said in a statement. “We share our sorrow with her family and her extended family, the women and men who put their lives on the line every day to keep our County safe.”
In a statement, County Council Chairman Julian Jones pledged that county leaders would support the officer’s family and colleagues.
“We are confident that the perpetrator of this heinous crime will be brought to justice,” said Jones, a Woodstock Democrat.
Condolences for the department and the officer’s family poured in from leaders across the state.
“The suspect who committed this terrible crime remains at large, and [Maryland State Police] are assisting Baltimore County Police in their search,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a post on Twitter. “The state stands ready to provide any and all resources necessary to capture this individual and bring them to justice.”
The search for suspects set off fears in the surrounding area.
On Monday afternoon, a county police officer with a long gun peered into the woods at Gunview Road near Oak White Road, while a long line of neighbors sat in their idling cars at a roadblock.
Heather Cummins, 54, lives nearby and was anxious to get home to her 80-year-old father, who was home alone.
“It’s not that it’s an inconvenience,” she said. “It’s the concern that someone’s on the loose and we’ve lost the life of a precious police officer.”
Jackie McDaniel, 73, who lives in the Red Fox Farm neighborhood, said she had left to buy milk around 1 p.m. She called her sister, who was still at their home, when she heard about the shooting.
“All these police passed me on the Beltway,” she said. “I called my sister and told her, ‘Do not answer the buzzer. Do not let anyone in.’ We’re in a locked-entry building, but you never know.”
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Christina Tkacik, Libby Solomon, Talia Richman, Colin Campbell, Sarah Meehan, Liz Bowie, Jessica Anderson and Pamela Wood contributed to this article.