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

Baltimore Police identify officers and victim in shootout that killed man, injured cop

and Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Baltimore police identified the two officers involved in a shootout Sunday that injured one of them and left another man dead.

Police said Tuesday that Nathaniel Sassafras, 29, of Baltimore, shot and injured officer Phillip Lippe, who has since been released from the hospital.

Both Lippe, a three-year member of the department, and Steven Foster, a five-year member, fired their weapons, police said. They were assigned to Western District patrol.

Both officers were wearing body cameras — one of which was shot and damaged in the incident, police said.

Police spokesman T.J. Smith said the damaged camera was being sent to the manufacturer to retrieve the data.

“We will make the decision to release the footage once we have had an opportunity to review it in its entirety,” Smith said in a statement.

The shooting was reported just before 6:30 p.m. in the rear of the 800 block of Vine St. in the Poppleton neighborhood.

Lippe and Foster were in the neighborhood for a “crime suppression initiative,” Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle told reporters at a news conference Sunday night.

Two people were shot in the same block in a span of just over four hours one evening last week.

Tuggle said Sassafras was not a specific target of the operation.

A spokesman for the Department of Corrections said Sassafras was paroled on Jan. 18 after serving nearly 14 years of a 20-year sentence for a 2004 murder.

The state corrections spokesman said Sassafras was convicted of second-degree murder and use of handgun in a crime of violence. He also served a concurrent one-year sentence for second-degree assault that occurred while he was incarcerated.

Police said Sassafras was just 15 when he shot Jason Baughman, 22, several times in front of a convenience store near the 500 block of N. Warwick Ave. on May 9, 2004, according to a Baltimore Sun article at the time. Police said the shooting was related to an "ongoing dispute in the area.”

Court records show Sassafras also was charged in another murder on June 26, 2004, but a warrant was not issued until October 22 of that year and he was arrested six days later. Those charges were later dropped.

No one answered Monday at two addresses associated with Sassafras. His family could not be reached for comment.

In a profile on a friendship and dating website connecting inmates to those on the outside, Sassafras, 19 at the time, described himself as a people person seeking meaningful relationships, who goes by the nickname “Davon.”

The profile said he was seeking an “intelligent” woman with a “good personality” to communicate with. He wrote that he enjoyed writing poetry, playing baseball, basketball, football and “love to sweat out when boxing.”

He continued, “I love to meet new friends because I'm a people person and I hope they stay with me.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this story.

smeehan@baltsun.com

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