Officer's weapon discharges in hospital

TOWSON, Md. (WMAR) - Police are trying to figure out exactly how a police officer's service weapon was fired inside of the emergency room at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.

Investigators say a Baltimore County police officer was guarding a prisoner -- being held on burglary charges -- who needed some form of treatment in the emergency room.

Then, at around 2:30 in the afternoon:  "One of the hospital staff people discovered that the prisoner had a needle of some sort hidden in his clothing," said Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department.

There was a struggle, and the prisoner tried to grab the hospital employee.  When the officer tried to help, the prisoner went for that officer's service weapon.

"The prisoner attempted to take her weapon, there was a struggle over the gun and at some point the weapon discharged, firing a shot into the wall," Armacost said.

A local security expert and former police officer tells ABC-2 News that officers are trained to be able to easily remove their weapon from its holster, but the holster is designed to make it difficult for anyone else to do it.

FBI statistics show that guarding a prisoner is anything but routine duty for police officers -- last year there were nearly 55,000 assaults on officers nationwide.

Nearly 7,000 of those, 12.6 percent, happened while officers were handling or transporting prisoners.

It's not clear whether Baltimore County Police considered the suspect in Wednesday's incident dangerous, but they do say other officers were in the hospital and stepped in to subdue him after the shot fired.

The focus is now on finding out how that happened.

"The investigators are still interviewing people and looking at the evidence and determining exactly how the gun discharged, and why the gun discharged," Armacost said.

No one was injured; police have not released the name of the suspect or the officer.

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