The man who shot and killed two Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputies at an Abingdon Panera Bread in February was a presence at the restaurant for months, and bore an arsenal of several rifles, handguns, and a shotgun along with 2,700 rounds in his nearby car, authorities said.
David Brian Evans likely intended to turn those weapons on his estranged family, according to Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, two decades after he shot and wounded his ex-wife outside her home. Instead, he was ultimately confronted by police and killed Sheriff’s Office Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey and Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon on Feb. 10.
“I fully suspect that it was his intention, as it was in ‘96 when he shot his ex-wife then, to take some sort of action against her and maybe other members of that family,” Gahler said. “I’ve said many times since we lost Pat and Mark that, through their loss, lives were saved. And I think that’s the lives that were saved.”
In an hour-long press conference, Gahler laid out in exacting detail the last two decades of Evans’ life, including a pattern of suspected stalking of his family and a period during which he was declared legally dead in Pennsylvania. The sheriff also disclosed new details about the moments leading up to the shootings of his deputies, including audio of 911 calls from that day, as well as visual representations of the scenes of both shootings and Evans vehicle.
(Story continues below the full video of the press conference.)
Final briefing underway for Harford County Sheriff’s Office LODD
Posted by Harford County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, March 22, 2016
According to the sheriff, Evans was born David Brian Feeley in Baltimore on Dec. 25, 1947, and later adopted by his step-father, Albert Evans, in 1957. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1965 as a legal specialist, later attending the University of Maryland on the G.I. Bill and graduating with a degree in engineering in 1974. Evans married a woman, Elizabeth, now 67, who worked at a local hospital, in 1972; the couple’s first child, Jeremie, now 38, arrived in 1977. Two other children, Nathan and Elisabeth, now 35 and 33 respectively, followed. Elizabeth, Jeremie, and Nathan still live in Harford County, while Elisabeth lives elsewhere in Maryland, Gahler said.
(After giving Evans’ biographical details, Gahler noted that he would discontinue referring to the man as anything but “the suspect.” “I’m going to refer to him as ‘the suspect’ the rest of the way through,” Gahler said. “I think you’ve all heard me say a lot since Feb. 10, he’s had his recognition that I’m going to give him, and I’m not going to honor him by giving his name any more than that.” The Dagger acknowledges Gahler’s choice, but for the sake of written clarity, will use the standard last-name identification of Evans in our story.)
Elizabeth and Evans divorced in 1989 through a family law firm. She moved the children to Georgia, and Evans, who had visitation rights, followed. After being charged with assault on a male friend of his ex-wife’s, a charge that was later dismissed for unknown reasons, he followed the family when they moved back to Maryland.
According to Gahler, Evans maintained visitations with the children through the 1990s, but continued drinking heavily and assaulted Jeremie. Evans moved to Pennsylvania and began seeing a woman living in Boston, but Elizabeth and Jeremie told police that Evans had trouble holding a job. Elizabeth eventually remarried, taking the married name Rupp, and moved with her new husband and children to Box Hill. Gahler said Evans “stalked” Elizabeth, but his actions were not reported to police.
The Harford County Circuit Court warrant on which Evans was wanted when he was confronted by deputies on Feb. 10 was in fact a re-issue of a warrant first issued 22 years earlier, on March 21, 1994 for failure to pay child support and attorney fees. In a parallel to events that would take place two decades later, Evans arrested in September 1996 at a fast food restaurant in Abingdon after his ex-wife spotted him at the restaurant and, knowing of the open warrant for him, called police. Evans was processed at the Harford County Detention Center, and later released. A court date of Oct. 2, 1996 was set, but Evans failed to appear, and the warrant was re-issued at that time. That warrant would stand for nearly two decades, and set the stage for the Feb. 10 incident.
Two months later, on Dec. 31, 1996, Elizabeth Rupp was leaving her Laurentum Parkway home for work when she was grazed in the back of the neck by a .22 caliber bullet. Rupp told police she did not hear a shot, but felt a sting and noticed blood. Rupp and her children pointed to Evans as a suspect, but Sheriff’s Office detectives were unsuccessful in locating him, and as a result, a warrant for first-degree assault was not issued.
“Significant work was done attempting to locate the suspect,” Gahler said, “however, there was not enough probable cause to obtain for the first-degree assault at that time.”
Looking back, Gahler pointed to advances in police procedure in the two decades since the shooting. He cited his agency’s own policy on the handling of domestic violence cases, which was expanded last year.
“I don’t think this was handled wrong in 1996,” he said. “I think it would be handled differently in 2016, and that is anywhere in the country, not just here.”
After the shooting, Evans moved to Florida, and was issued several citations in 1999 for fleeing and eluding police, apparently satisfying the conditions of those citations in that state. In his time in Florida, Gahler said Evans had several addresses in the Orlando area, and lived briefly with his previous girlfriend from Boston who had moved to Florida. He did not hold steady work after 2004, the sheriff said, and resorted to pawning items from his watch collection for extra cash. Evans let his vehicle registration lapse, and stole license plates to make the vehicle appear legal.
In July 2011, Albert Evans, David Evans’ step-father, died. Evans’ half-sister attempted to locate him to settle their father’s estate, but said she had not heard from Evans in two decades. Subsequent efforts by private investigators tracked him to Florida, but could not locate his exact whereabouts. Though never reported missing, Evans was declared dead on March 28, 2014 by the York County, Pa. Orphans Court, back-dated to an effective date of Dec. 31, 1997. Gahler said it was unclear why that exact date was chosen.
On April 23, 2015, a Maitland, Fla. police officer discovered Evans sleeping in his 2004 Ford Taurus in the parking lot of an office complex in Orlando. When the officer returned to his vehicle to run Evans’ stolen license plate, Evans fled the scene. The officer initially pursued Evans, but Gahler said the pursuit was cancelled due to the non-violent nature of the offense. Because Evans was not apprehended, and his crime was not violent, the details of the incident were not filed until October, six months later.
Evans subsequently reappeared in Harford County, with employees at the Abingdon Panera Bread reporting seeing him as early as last summer. His appearance was initially clean-cut and tidy, but restaurant employees said his appearance began to “degrade” by December, and reported that he began to dig for leftover food in the restaurant’s trash cans and dumpster. Gahler said restaurant employees described Evans as “always kind, but quiet, always kept to himself.”
Elizabeth Rupp told Harford County Sheriff’s Office investigators that she thought she saw Evans several times at the restaurant over the two months prior to the shootings, but said she was uncertain of his identity because of the length of time that had passed since she last saw him. Evans’ son Nathan confronted him at the restaurant on Jan. 6, but Evans denied being the man’s father. Nathan called 911, and was transferred to the Sheriff’s Office Southern Precinct, where he was advised to contact the agency’s Warrants unit. Gahler said Nathan elected not to do so at the time. The sheriff said investigators believe Evans was armed while in the restaurant during the two months leading up to the shootings.
Just after 11 a.m. on Feb. 10, Elizabeth Rupp saw Evans through a window the restaurant, but left without entering the restaurant or confronting him, and drove to the Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Main Street in Bel Air. She was advised there to call 911, and at 11:40 a.m. provided information to a Harford County Emergency Operations Center dispatcher that Evans was sitting in the rear of the restaurant, but said that she did not believe he presented an imminent danger to anyone around him.
Though she did reference the 1996 suspected shooting, the lack of a warrant in that case made the dispatcher unable to confirm the incident, Gahler said. Instead, the dispatcher relayed information that Evans was wanted for extradition to Florida for the charge of fleeing arrest, and on the 1996 warrant for failing to appear to the Harford County court date.
Senior Deputy Patrick Dailey arrived at the restaurant at 11:53 a.m., and entered the restaurant after a brief exchange with a dispatcher. The sheriff said that Evans sat in the same location in the restaurant, near windows at the rear of the restaurant.
Gahler said he believed that Evans chose his seat in a corner alcove of the restaurant for a general “tactical advantage,” as it allowed him to see patrons coming and going. However, it is unknown whether Evans saw Dailey’s marked patrol car arrive at the scene.
The entire encounter between Evans and Dailey lasted approximately 12 seconds, the sheriff said. Dailey asked Evans to identify himself, then to keep his hands in view after Evans moved them below the table. Evans produced a Smith & Wesson 3953 9mm semi-automatic handgun and shot Dailey once above the left eyebrow. Gahler said investigators determined Dailey was attempting to move forward and push the gun away when he was shot.
Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Scott Johnson arrived on scene at approximately 11:55 a.m., approximately nine seconds after Dailey was shot, according to Gahler, and called out for an officer down at 11:56 a.m.
Evans fled the restaurant in the direction of Bel Air South Parkway. As Johnson tended to Dailey, Gahler said other officers arriving on scene were aided by a witness brave enough to follow Evans at a safe distance and observe him flee into the parking lot of the Park View at Box Hill, a nearby senior living complex.
As members of several law enforcement agencies rushed to the scene, Deputy First Class Mark Logsdon joined Deputy First Class M. Anthony DeMarino and Deputy First Class Thomas Wehrle in a search of cars parked in the lot. Logsdon approached the parking lot from the west, moving down a steep slope, and was approximately 16 feet away from Evans’ 2004 Ford Taurus when he saw Evans lying down in the driver’s seat, which was completely reclined. Shirts were hanging in both windows to block the outside view of the car, which Gahler said was likely the way Evans kept the vehicle at night.
Evans fired several times through the passenger side of the vehicle, striking Logsdon twice, once in his vest and once in the left hip. Logsdon returned fire with his Glock .22, hitting the car three times but not injuring Evans. However, the shot to his hip traveled through his torso and fatally severed his inferior vena cava, a major vein which returns deoxygenated blood to the heart.
Wehrle, an eight-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office assigned to the Crime Suppression Unit, and DeMarino, also an eight-year veteran assigned to the Southern Precinct, approached the vehicle from the east. The pair returned fire with their .223 patrol rifles while standing near the driver’s side front and rear windows, respectively, after exercising what Gahler called “unparalled restraint” and further approaching the vehicle to ensure no other occupants were present. Wehrle fired 17 rounds and DeMarino fired 16 rounds into the vehicle, killing Evans.
The Smith & Wesson 3953 9mm was found in Evans’ hand with rounds remaining; an additional magazine for the weapon was found in his pants pocket. An additional handgun, Smith & Wesson Model 36 .38 caliber revolver, was found in a bag on the front passenger floorboard, which Gahler said Evans had been seen carrying into both the Panera Bread and the Park View complex.
Four weapons were recovered from the vehicle’s trunk, including a Ruger 10/22 .22 caliber rifle with a homemade silencer attached. Subsequent comparison testing confirmed that the bullet fired at Elizabeth Rupp in 1996 was fired from that rifle.
Also recovered was a Ruger M77 .243 caliber rifle; a Ruger Mini 14 .223 rifle; and a Winchester 1330 Defender 12-gauge rifle, along with more than 2,700 rounds of ammunition. Gahler said all of the weapons and ammunition were purchased legally by Evans in several different states over the course of the preceding decades.
Information recovered from Evans’ cell phone revealed a “significant history” of searching for details on his ex-wife and children, including directions from Rupp’s home to Evans’ sister’s house in Pennsylvania, which Gahler called a possible escape route in anticipation of a future incident. His Google search history included details on how to commit bank robberies; investigation has not linked Evans to any robberies.
Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph Cassilly said he reviewed the events of Feb. 10 and determined that DeMarino and Wherle’s use of deadly force was “entirely justified,” based on the shootings of their fellow officers and their own exposed position.
Cassilly added that the case highlighted for him the need to reinstate the death penalty in Maryland.
“Frankly, folks, I look at this case and I’m glad that the suspect was killed, because I think that had this been a prosecution, it would have been a very unsatisfactory prosecution, to only be able to ask for a life sentence for someone who just murdered two police officers,” Cassilly said. “I believe this case is cause for reinstitution of the death penalty in Maryland.”
Visibly emotional at several points during the press conference, Gahler said the six weeks since the shootings have seen little healing for his agency.
“There’ll be no closure,” he said. “This is the darkest day in 242 years for the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. There’s no closure coming.”