- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Prince George’s County police officer was killed yesterday in a shootout with a man running away from a traffic stop in Laurel, the county’s first officer killed in the line of duty in more than 10 years.

Cpl. Steven Gaughan, 41, was with other plainclothes officers on the department’s Special Assignment Team who stopped a suspicious vehicle in the 11700 block of South Laurel Drive near the Villages at Montpelier apartment complex about 11 a.m. The car pulled into the sprawling complex and three men fled.

“The passenger immediately exited the vehicle very quickly and ran around to the back of the building,” said Maj. Thomas P. Connolly, who oversees District 6. “Officer Gaughan pursued the suspect, and at some point behind the building … gunshots were fired and the officer was struck.”

“There was a lot of shooting back and forth, and people were hiding behind walls trying not to get shot,” said Chris Goldsborough, who witnessed the incident.

Marine Lance Cpl. William Waddell was at work in the District when his wife called to say police had commandeered their apartment for a stakeout.

“She saw everything. She heard shots. She saw a guy go down, she saw people running. She called the police, but apparently they were already involved,” Cpl. Waddell said. His wife, Kia, and their children, ages 4 years and 2 months, were not hurt.

Maj. Connolly, who was Cpl. Gaughan’s commander, said the police officer appeared to have been shot in the arm and in the abdomen. He said Cpl. Gaughan was wearing his bulletproof vest.

Cpl. Gaughan was flown to Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, where he underwent surgery. He died about 5:30 p.m. with his wife, Donna, by his side.

“Doing the things he did today to make our county safe is the epitome of policing,” said police Chief Melvin C. High, as he announced the officer’s death to reporters outside the hospital.

Cpl. Gaughan was the first officer killed in the line of duty in the county since April 1995.

The man suspected of shooting Cpl. Gaughan was in critical condition at the same hospital last night, but his injuries were not considered life-threatening. He and two other men who were arrested later are expected to be charged today.

Chief High said Cpl. Gaughan, a 15-year veteran of the police department, was a father of two young children, a boy and a girl, whom he and his wife adopted from Russia.

According to his colleagues, Cpl. Gaughan’s father is a 30-year veteran of the Boston Police Department, where his brother is an officer. His wife was a Prince George’s County police officer from 1990 to 1999.

“He always had a smile on his face, always had a joke. He was a very devout husband and father and a man of faith,” said Cpl. Steve Campbell, who worked with Cpl. Gaughan early in his career in Seat Pleasant.

Sgt. Doug Lileks, a retired detective who worked with Cpl. Gaughan, agreed. “When he came to Beltsville he already had the reputation of being a great officer. I never saw him mad. I never saw him quit,” he said. “He was a natural policeman, just natural. He was a good father and a good friend — and these aren’t just words.”

Last night, family and friends gathered for a vigil at the Greenbelt Baptist Church, where Cpl. Gaughan attended services and volunteered in a church program to provide food and shelter to homeless men. About 40 people shared hugs, tears and memories of a man hailed as a hero at work and at home.

“Steve was never the kind of guy who would come home from work and say, ‘I’ve gotta rest,’” said Ko Klaver, who worked with Cpl. Gaughan in the Safe Haven homeless ministry. “Some way, somehow, he was always ready to serve.”

The service began with a violinist playing “Amazing Grace,” and closed with a law-enforcement officer’s somber trumpet performance of taps. Afterward, those in attendance lit hand-held candles in Cpl. Gaughan’s memory as they filed slowly and silently out of the sanctuary.

“He was always very happy, very positive, very energetic. He always looked like he wasn’t very comfortable standing still,” said Bill Wallace, a church deacon.

“He was always wanting to help somebody,” said Diana Fox, church secretary.

The other two men in the car pulled over yesterday made their way into an apartment building where they barricaded themselves for about two hours.

Police shut down Route 197 in both directions for about two hours as scores of officers and police vehicles converged on the scene.

The two men later surrendered. Police did not identify any of the suspects.

Officers continued the search for bullets and casings on the grounds of the apartment complex until after dark. They remained in the apartment complex late into the night.

Police declined to be specific about what made officers suspicious enough to stop the car. However, they did say the unit has done considerable narcotics work and other types of surveillance.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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