By Jake Ulick
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
An off-duty Baltimore County police officer was shot and wounded by Harford County Sheriff’s deputies Thursday afternoon after he allegedly fired several shots at them during a two-and-a-half hour standoff in the Bright Oaks community in Bel Air, Harford County authorities said.
Police said Officer First Class James L. Ward, 42, a 19-year veteran of the Baltimore County Police Department who worked in the White Marsh precinct, was suicidal and reportedly drinking heavily at the time of the incident.
Ward was transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center by the Maryland state police helicopter, authorities said. He suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
Baltimore County police said Ward will be suspended without pay when felony charges are filed against him by Harford County.
“I am shocked and saddened at the actions of one of our officers this afternoon,” Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said in a statement on the department’s website. “I am thankful that none of the first responders and police personnel who handled this call were physically injured. We hope that the Baltimore County officer involved in this incident receives the medical help he apparently needs so desperately.”
Cristie Kahler, a spokesperson for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, said officers were responding to a call at 12:10 p.m. regarding a suicidal man who was severely intoxicated.
Multiple shots from a handgun had already been fired prior to deputies arriving, Kahler said. Once on scene, deputies heard more shots from inside the house and called in the Special Response and Crisis Negotiation teams.
After attempts to negotiate with Ward over the phone failed, Ward fired multiple shots toward deputies, Kahler said. Two deputies returned fire, wounding Ward, who was then arrested after exiting the residence at about 2:40 p.m.
Ward was apparently involved in a domestic dispute at the time of the incident, police said.
Harford County officials said deputies worked with public school officials to dismiss students at nearby schools. A perimeter was also set up around the house to ensure the safety of residents in the area, authorities said.
Police said Harford County investigators and detectives from the forensic service unit will conduct an investigation of the incident. The deputies involved in the shooting have been placed on routine administrative leave pending the results of that investigation, police said.