CURTIS BAY, Md. (WJZ) — Police now say they have a person in custody after a manhunt Thursday for an “armed and dangerous” suspect who police say shot two police officers in Anne Arundel County late Wednesday night.
Joseph Robert Mitchell Willis, 22 of the 7700 block of Middle Gate Court was charged with attempted first-degree murder for allegedly shooting two detectives investigating the case.
Willis is charged in the first-degree murder of 44-year-old Christopher Lawrence Jones 600 block of Newfield Road.
Det. Scott Ballard and Det. Ian Preece were injured in a police-involved shooting that happened in the Curtis Bay area of Anne Arundel County.
According to police, the officers were investigating the murder of a man who suffered upper body trauma when they noticed the victim’s vehicle was missing.
About six hours later, the detectives found the victim’s vehicle in Baltimore City right on the county line. The detectives tried to pull over a person of interest in a murder investigation near the border with Baltimore City on Fort Smallwood Road.
The man then fired at the officers, hitting Ballard. Ballard went to a nearby convenience store to get help, while Preece continued the pursuit.
That pursuit continued into the Stoney Beach neighborhood of Riviera Beach and Pasadena.
The suspect then bailed out of the car and fired multiple rounds at the officer and Preece was struck by gunfire.
“As soon as I started to exit my door to see what was going on, I heard gunfire — about 8 shots,” Dennis Myers, who lives feet from the scene, said.
Ballard was in critical but stable condition and Preece was listed in stable condition. Thursday night, County Executive Steuart Pittman said both were out of surgery and “taking the first steps on the road to recovery.”
Police described the suspect as an “armed and dangerous” Caucasian man about 6-feet tall and skinny, possibly with neck and face tattoos.
Thursday afternoon, neighbors reported seeing a man come out of a nearby home after hearing flashbangs. The man had his hands in the air, neighbors said.
WJZ’s Rachel Menitoff went to the home; the woman inside said she had no comment.
At a press conference Thursday morning prior to the person of interest’s arrest, Chief Timothy J. Altomare thanked the first responders who helped the injured officers but also sent a message to the suspect.
“Every minute you stretch this out it makes it more dangerous for my cops and it also makes it more dangerous for you,” Altomare said. “We need (you) to come and turn yourself in. We will treat you with the respect due to a human being. You will be safe and we will respect your rights.”
He also urged the community to come forward if they think they know who the suspect may be.
“You’re loved one will be safer turning himself in,” Altomare said.
Acting Mayor Rhonda Pindell Charles released a statement on the shooting later Thursday:
“We were very disheartened to learn of the overnight shooting of two police officers in our neighboring jurisdiction of Anne Arundel County. Police officers in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are out on the streets in our communities working to keep residents safe every day. We know the impact this news has on our brothers and sisters in blue. Please know that our prayers are with the two officers and their families as they work toward a full recovery from their injuries. We are also sending positive thoughts to the officers on the street who will carry on in their jobs while the dangers they face feel ever more immediate.”
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said all Marylanders are praying for their full and speedy recovery in a statement Thursday morning.
“We have absolutely no tolerance for the violence committed against two Anne Arundel County Police detectives last night. These brave officers are now in stable condition, and all Marylanders are praying for their full and speedy recovery,” he said in a tweet.
He added his office is closely monitoring the ongoing investigation.
We are closely monitoring the ongoing investigation, and urge members of the public with any information to call the Anne Arundel Police Criminal Investigation Line at 410-222-3566. This individual is still at large and considered armed and dangerous.
— Governor Larry Hogan (@GovLarryHogan) February 6, 2020
Pittman said the community is with these officers and their families.
“That’s why I can promise you that everything humanly possible will be done to hunt down the man who did this,” Pittman said.
Ballard is a 22-year veteran assigned to the Fugitive Apprehension Team and Preece is a 13-year veteran assigned to the Homeland Security Investigations team.
WJZ’s Mike Schuh, Paul Gessler, Mike Hellgren, Rachael Cardin and Rachel Menitoff contributed to this report.