MDTA Officer Accused Of Shooting, Killing Federally Protected Birds While Boating

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A Maryland Transportation officer has had his police powers suspended after being accused of shooting and killing federally-protected birds while on a boat near the Key Bridge.

Emergency calls poured in the night of July 21 of shots fired near the Key Bridge at a group of birds and what appeared to be in the direction of a Baltimore cruise ship.

“Everyone trains for the worst case scenario and this is the worst case scenario, everyone gives you doomsday scenario of all your training and this was it,” said Sgt. Kurt Roepcke of the Baltimore City Police Marine Unit. “I’ve never heard something like this before in my entire career on the water.”

Sgt. Roepcke, along with the Coast Guard and others, raced to the scene.

“We were advised the boat was fleeing in the west direction at bear creek so we called for the police helicopter to assist,” he said.

Marine officers with Baltimore City police and Maryland Natural Resources police then chased the 21-foot boat for nearly 10 minutes to the Dundalk area.

Authorities said the weapon was tossed overboard, but with help from Foxtrot, the shotgun was recovered in the water.

Police eventually stopped the boat and on board was an off-duty MDTA officer and his two companions.

Baltimore City police and its marine unit said 300 rounds of ammunition was found on the boat.

“We found a lot of ammunition, there was a lot of empty beer cans, but also found 200 shotgun rounds and other ammunition. They didn’t really say much to us,” Roepcke said.

Nearby, several birds were found dead, some that are federally protected.

The name of the MDTA officer is not being released. He and the two others on board were all detained.

“There was a lot of boats out there at this time in the area. There was a family out on a boat, the Baltimore Spirit Cruise was out there. You have kayakers out in this area. Not to mention, we’re near the Key Bridge and one of the bullets could have ricocheted. We’re lucky no one got injured,” Roepcke said.

Police said each person on board was given a field sobriety test but the results have not yet been released.

There are a lot of agencies involved in the case, one reason why charges are still pending.

The MDTA officer has been placed on administrative duty.

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