Daughter of former Ocean City PD Chief DiPino still hospitalized after shooting

(May 10, 2019) Parkville Police Pfc. Tabitha Hays remains hospitalized in stable condition after being shot by apparent friendly fire in a “suicide by cop” incident in Baltimore County last Thursday.

Hays is the daughter of former Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino.

Pfc. Tabitha Hays

Pfc. Tabitha Hays

Suspect Robert Uhl Johnson, 76, was killed during the shooting.

According to a Baltimore County Police press release last Friday, police received a call at 1:37 p.m. last Thursday about a subject with a gun in a home in the 3000 block of Linwood Avenue in Parkville.

Johnson apparently called police, “methodically providing his personal information to the call-taker before stating that there was an unknown subject waiving a gun at him inside his home … Johnson hung up on the 9-1-1 call-taker when she attempted to gather additional information. Multiple attempts were made to contact the caller, but he did not answer the phone on any call-back,” police said.

Four Parkville Police officers, including Hays, approached Johnson’s home and saw him inside, sitting in a chair facing the front door. One officer tried to talk to Johnson, but he refused to get up from the chair or exit the home. He reportedly told police he called 911 and there was no one else inside the home.

Police entered the residence and told Johnson to keep his hands in the air, but Johnson reportedly lowered his right hand to pick up a handgun, which he pointed at police as he said, “I’m sorry I have to do this.” All four officers then fired at Johnson, at which time Hays was struck once in the upper body.

An investigation by Homicide Unit detectives found that Johnson’s gun was not loaded. Police said Johnson also left his will and last requests for burial for police to find.

According to Baltimore County Police Ofc. Jennifer Peach, “We can confirm that the suspect’s gun had no bullets, so it would appear that Ofc. Hays was shot by one of the four officers who fired their weapons. A forensic examination will be required to determine which gun the bullet was fired from.”

Three other officers who fired at Johnson are on administrative leave. They were identified as Pfc. J. Hummel, an 18-year veteran, Pfc. A. Burns, a 17-1/2 year veteran, and Pfc. J. Deford, a 10-1/2 year veteran. None of the officers had experience in a police-involved shooting.

Hays, a 13-1/2 year veteran of the force, was in a police-involved shooting in 2008.

An earlier police report said Johnson fired on police as they entered the home, but later review of evidence, including body camera footage, revealed Johnson “picked up a firearm, did not follow officers’ commands to put down the weapon, and pointed the gun at the officers, causing the officers to fire upon the suspect.”

Hays underwent surgery at Shock Trauma in Baltimore on Thursday.

Police spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson last Thursday told the Baltimore Sun the injuries to Hays are not life-threatening, adding, “The officer is going to remain in surgery for quite some time and then the officer will be transported to intensive care.”

Peach, on Monday, said Hays’ condition remains sable at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.

“We do not expect to have any additional information to release on this investigation,” Peach said.

The Baltimore County Police Homicide Unit will complete its investigation and submit the case for review to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Bernadette DiPino was the chief of police in Ocean City from 2003 until 2009, and later became the police chief in Sarasota, Florida.

Police Chief Bernadette DiPino

Police Chief Bernadette DiPino

Sarasota Police issued a statement on Thursday:

“Earlier today, Thursday, May 2, 2019, Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino was notified that her daughter, an officer with the Baltimore County Police Department in Maryland, was shot in the line of duty. She was seriously injured and transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center where she is currently undergoing surgery.

“Chief DiPino is in Maryland with her daughter and family. The Sarasota Police Department asks for the chief’s privacy to be respected during this difficult time.”

Ocean Pines Police Chief David Massey, who worked closely with DiPino while he was the chief of police in Ocean City, said he spoke with his former colleague on Monday.

“She said Tabitha was doing remarkably well,” Massey said.

Hays was honored in 2016 by the Baltimore County Police Foundation for community service, including organizing holiday events for children and their families on Christmas and Halloween.

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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