Police Officer Wounded in Howard Co. Shooting Stable

Police Officer Wounded in Howard Co. Shooting Stable
October 24, 2013, 11:20 pm
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A police officer shot by a 29-year-old man Wednesday afternoon is in serious but stable condition. 

Stephon Prather, 29, was taken into custody Thursday morning after a 16-hour manhunt. Police say they believe he had been hiding inside a stormdrain. 

Freddy Pina was driving to work when he spotted Prather walking along Route 1 in Laurel, not too far from the scene of Wednesday's shooting.

"I saw the guy come out of the woods ... I was driving the car, came back here and told one of the cops. That's all I did," Pina said. 

Officers confronted Prather, and he was taken into custody without incident around 8:45 a.m. Prather was taken from the scene on a stretcher.

"He was barely walking. He had two sticks in his hands," Pina said. "I think he was injured or something."

Authorities said Prather was shot in the leg during Wednesday's shootout with police.

After Prather was taken into custody, investigators conducted a grid search in the wooded area near where he was found and located a handgun deep inside a storm drain. Police believe the handgun is the same weapons used in the shooting of Officer Steven Houk.

His arrest brings great relief. Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said they were concerned about what he was capable of doing.

"This guy took a shot at a cop," McMahon said.

Heavily armed and dressed in camouflage, officers resumed their search for Pranther  Thursday morning after Wednesday's search was suspended when it became too dark to look for him. 

Employees at the AutoMax Used Car lot on Washington Boulevard say Prather came in Wednesday afternoon just before 4 p.m., looking to test drive a car. Salesman Adrian Ledesma communicated with Prather and could tell something wasn't right. He said Prather was impatient to test drive, and said he felt as though Prather had a gun.

Ledesma then called police after Prather's agitation grew. 

Once police arrived at the scene, Prather shot at the officers, who returned fire, authorities said. One of the officers, identified as the 30-year-old Houk, was struck and transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. His condition was described as "serious," but officials say his prognosis is "good."

Prather fled the scene after the shooting and police from Howard County, the City of Laurel and Prince George's County launched a manhunt, shutting down Route 1, also known as Washington Boulevard, between Gorman Road and Whiskey Bottom Road.

From Chopper4, law enforcement officers armed with rifles could be seen searching through a utility right-of-way that was adjacent to homes, sometimes stopping to train their weapons on one section of the landscape. Other officers could be seen using K-9s to search the area for Prather.

Route 1 was closed for about six hours as heavily armed police officers and K-9 units combed the area searching for Prather. The road reopened just before 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Prather was wanted on charges of attempted murder of a police officer and multiple counts of assault against officers.

Prather has a criminal past -- in 2006 he shot at a family but no one was hit.