- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A Bladensburg man involved in a fatal shootout with Prince George’s County police was charged yesterday with the murder of Cpl. Steven F. Gaughan.

Robert Mark Billett, 43, of the 5200 block of Newton Street, will appear in an Upper Marlboro court today at 1:15 p.m. to hear charges of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault and one count of using a handgun in commission of a crime of violence.

Mr. Billett, who was wounded in the gunbattle late Tuesday morning and taken to Prince George’s Hospital Center, was transferred yesterday to the county jail and could appear in court either in person or by closed-circuit television.

Police said Mr. Billett was arrested in 2004 for felony assault, in 2002 for felony sale of marijuana and in 2001 on felony charges of violating the Drug Control Act.

Two other men taken into custody by police were not charged and were released yesterday.

The incident began about 11 a.m. when Cpl. Gaughan, 41, and his partner, both in plain clothes, were investigating the theft of all-terrain vehicle in Laurel, said Maj. Vincent Gay, commander of the police department’s criminal investigations unit. He said the officers spotted a green Ford Tahoe whose driver was “known to be involved with past incidents in the area.”

The officers followed the vehicle and called for a marked car to make a traffic stop. The responding uniformed officer tried to pull over the car, but the driver refused to stop, running a red light at Route 197 and Snowden Lane, officials said.

Officers said the passenger, Mr. Billett, appeared to throw something out the window before the Tahoe came to a stop at an apartment complex in the 11700 block of South Laurel Drive.

Mr. Billett fled the vehicle, firing on the three officers, who returned fire. Mr. Billett was hit in the arm, the leg and the side.

Maj. Gay said that the other two officers involved were not injured. He would not say whether any of the officers were protected by bulletproof vests.

He said ballistics tests conclusively linked the gun used by Mr. Billett to the rounds that hit Cpl. Gaughan.

At police headquarters yesterday in Palmer Park, flags flew at half staff and police officials wore black tape over their badges as a sign of mourning.

During an afternoon press conference, officials provided additional details of the incident, including some that contradicted information provided previously.

For example, Police Chief Melvin C. High said that Cpl. Gaughan was not wearing a bulletproof vest when he was shot in the arm and the abdomen. He said earlier reports indicating he was wearing the vest were based on assumption.

Chief High said he did not know why Cpl. Gaughan was not wearing the vest and that it was not certain whether a vest would have saved his life.

“The issue here is that police officers were out doing their work, and it is unacceptable that the people would shoot at the police,” he said. “That is unacceptable in a civilized society.”

Maj. Gay said one of the men arrested and released was in the Tahoe with Mr. Billett and that he fled to an apartment. A man inside the apartment was the other suspect arrested, then released. The men were not identified because they were not charged, though police say additional charges could be filed. Maj. Gay confirmed that a 911 call was made to police indicating that the man who fled into the apartment wanted to surrender. He would not say who made the call.

Cpl. Gaughan’s family announced yesterday that a viewing will be held tomorrow at the Borgwardt Funeral Home in Beltsville from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The funeral service will be at noon Saturday at the Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro.

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