Friday, April 25, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) — An off-duty Baltimore police officer was fatally shot by another officer yesterday morning outside a strip club after he failed to heed a command to halt and drew a handgun, police said.

Officer John Torres, who first used a Taser on Officer Norman Stamp, fired twice when Officer Stamp, 65, drew his weapon, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said.

Uniformed officers responded shortly after midnight to reports of a fight outside the Haven Place strip club in southeastern Baltimore. Officer Torres stationed himself by a door to prevent anyone else from joining the melee, and confronted Officer Stamp when he emerged wearing brass knuckles, Mr. Bealefeld said.

Officer Stamp was a 44-year veteran and one of the department’s longest-serving officers.

“Officer Stamp was a mentor to some and a friend to many,” Mr. Bealefeld said. “This is an incredibly difficult time.”

The jolt of electricity from the Taser sent Officer Stamp to the ground, at which point he drew his handgun, Mr. Bealefeld said. After he was shot, Officer Stamp was rushed to a trauma center, where he died at about 1:30 a.m.

Officer Torres did not recognize Officer Stamp, and there was no indication Officer Stamp identified himself as an officer, Mr. Bealefeld said.

He also said Officer Torres “did what he was taught to do in these types of situations,” adding that the “first rule” when plainclothes officers encounter uniformed officers is to follow the commands of those in uniform.

The brawl began after several young women entered the bar seeking employment, Mr. Bealefeld said.

“Some people made comments about them, then the fight was on,” Mr. Bealefeld said, adding that Officer Stamp’s role in the brawl had not been determined.

Police spokesman Sterling Clifford said Officer Stamp had spent most of his career in the department’s motor unit and was later posted to the marine unit, which patrols the Inner Harbor. Mr. Clifford said he did not know the exact date of the transfer but that it was during the administration of Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier, who served from 1994 to 1999.

“He’s been on the boat long enough that … Torres didn’t recognize him because he just wouldn’t have ever run into him,” Mr. Bealefeld said.

Officer Torres, 26, who’s been with the department since 2002, has been placed on administrative duty, police said.

The commissioner said Wednesday marked Officer Stamp’s service anniversary, but he did not know whether the officer was celebrating the anniversary. No other sworn officers were in the bar at the time, though a retired officer might have been there, the commissioner said.

“This is a tragedy,” Mayor Sheila Dixon said. “I did this morning speak with Officer Stamp’s wife to assure her that we will be there with her and her family.”

He also leaves behind a daughter, said Paul M. Blair Jr., president of the city police union.

Officer Stamp is the seventh person fatally shot by Baltimore police this year, and 10 police-involved shootings have been reported, Mr. Clifford said. Last year, officers shot 31 people, killing 13. In the past two months, two other police officers have been wounded by gunfire, and another officer came under fire.

The city has seen significant reductions in violent crime since Mr. Bealefeld became commissioner last summer.

Baltimore is on pace for 185 homicides, which would be the lowest total in more than 20 years.

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