(Conowingo, MD) – A sheriff’s deputy and a suspect were both shot during an exchange of gunfire that occurred as a drug task force was serving a search warrant at a Cecil County home early this morning.
The suspect is identified as James W. Ratledge, 60, of the 300-block of Old Conowingo Road, Conowingo, Md. He is currently under police guard while being treated at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Charges against him are pending and will be filed after consultation with the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Just before 5:00 a.m. today, members of the Cecil County Drug Task Force and a uniformed state trooper and a uniformed Cecil County Sheriff’s Office deputy attempted to serve a court authorized search and seizure warrant at the single-family home of the suspect. The search warrant had been obtained as part of a drug investigation that was initiated after several leads were received indicating the suspect was involved in the distribution of cocaine in the area.
When police entered the residence, they immediately announced their presence and identified themselves. A man on the first floor of the residence was taken into custody without incident.
The preliminary investigation indicates that the suspect looked out his bedroom door which opens onto an upstairs loft and saw the police officers before closing his door and refusing to surrender.
Three police officers, including a Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a state trooper from the task force went up onto the loft and attempted to enter the closed bedroom door, which the suspect was trying to keep closed from the inside. The suspect fired a handgun through the wall beside the bedroom door, striking the Harford County deputy.
In fear for their lives and the lives of the other police officers, the task force trooper and a task force officer from the Elkton Police Department returned fire, striking the suspect in the torso. Initially, the suspect refused to come out of his bedroom, but after about ten minutes of urging by the officers, he came out and surrendered.
Ratledge was flown by State Police medevac helicopter to Shock Trauma. The deputy was transported by ambulance to an area hospital. Both are said to have sustained non-life threatening injuries.
Police secured the scene of the shooting and Maryland State Police criminal investigators obtained a second search warrant for the residence in order to continue the investigation into the police involved shooting. After police process the shooting scene pursuant to the warrant, the original drug search warrant will be served at the residence. Another drug task force team was called in to execute the drug search warrant.
The search of the crime scene is continuing. No information is available at this time concerning any weapons, drugs or other contraband that has been recovered.
The Maryland State Police trooper who fired at the suspect will not be identified for safety reasons, due to his undercover duties. He has been with the Maryland State Police for ten years and was a police officer prior to joining this Department.
The Cecil County Drug Task Force is comprised of the Maryland State Police, Cecil County Sheriff’s Office and the Elkton Police Department. Deputies from the Harford County Sheriff’s Office were assisting with the service of the search warrant today.
The investigation is continuing.
Here is the Harford County Sheriff’s Office press release:
Deputy Sheriff Shot
(Harford County, MD – December 19, 2008) – A Harford County Sheriff’s deputy was shot early this morning while assisting the Cecil County Narcotics Task force.
At approximately 5:00 am this morning, three Harford County Sheriff’s deputies were assisting the Cecil County Narcotics Task Force serving a warrant in the 300 block of Old Conowingo Road, Conowingo, Cecil County, MD. The three assisting deputies are assigned to the Harford County Joint Narcotics Task Force.
While in the residence officers encountered the owner, James William Ratledge, 60, who fired a handgun once at the officers striking a Harford County Sheriff’s deputy, in the upper left area of his chest. The deputy, an eight year veteran, was wearing his bullet resistant vest and suffered non-life threatening injuries. The deputy was transported to Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre De Grace, Harford County, MD for observation and was released shortly thereafter. The Maryland State Police are investigating the incident.
Further questions regarding the investigation should be directed to the Public Information Office of the Maryland State Police.