Man on trial in shooting of Howard officer hit with federal charge

As the Howard County trial of a man accused of shooting a police officer began Tuesday, federal authorities also waded into the case by filing a gun charge against the defendant.

State authorities are seeking to prove Stephon Prather, 30, exchanged gunfire with police in October wounding officer Steven Houk. Prather, who police said opened fire without warning, was on the loose overnight after the shooting but was eventually arrested near the scene on Route 1.

Prather was himself hurt and was walking with sticks serving as makeshift crutches when police found him, according to court documents.

At the time of the arrest, police said they had not recovered a gun, but an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives wrote in federal charge papers filed Tuesday that one turned up — investigators found a 9mm handgun in a backpack that had been placed in a drainpipe, the agent wrote.

Tests of the gun matched it to the one used to shoot Houk, according to the federal charges. Authorities say Prather had a prior conviction and was barred from owning a gun, which is the basis for the federal case.

Prather's trial on the state charges, which include attempted murder and gun counts, is scheduled to continue Wednesday.

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