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Police looking for man who killed off-duty Md. state trooper

June 11, 2010

FORESTVILLE, Md. (AP) -- Police are searching for a man who shot and killed an off-duty Maryland state trooper early Friday about a half hour after the trooper escorted him from a restaurant over a disputed bill, Prince George's County police said.

Trooper First Class Wesley W. Brown, 24, escorted a disorderly customer from an Applebee's on Thursday evening and when he left the restaurant around 12:40 a.m. Friday, State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence Sheridan said that customer shot him.

Brown, who was wearing a jacket that clearly identified him as a police officer on the back, was talking on the phone in the restaurant's parking lot when he was shot, Sheridan said.

Covered in blood, Brown made it back inside the restaurant and passed out, police said. Brown was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

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Investigators have spoken to more than 50 witnesses who were at the crowded restaurant Thursday night, said county police Maj. Andy Ellis. Detectives will also review surveillance video from the restaurant and surrounding businesses.

Ellis urged the gunman to turn himself in.

"We're going to find out who he is. There's no question," Ellis said. "There has never been an unsolved police shooting (in the county)."

Brown's death has devastated the trooper's law enforcement and personal family and the community he protected, Sheridan said.

Gov. Martin O'Malley visited the scene Friday morning as police searched the area. Later in the day, his office announced that flags would be flown at half-staff in Brown's honor.

Brown's cousin Kenneth Pollard, 48, also visited the scene Friday morning.

"He was a good guy and he tried to do the right thing and somebody took his life," he said.

He said Brown had eight older sisters and an older brother who works for the FBI in Washington. Pollard said Brown always wanted to be in law enforcement and took the security job for some extra money.

"He was a funny guy, happy-go-lucky, always smiling," he said.

Brown was assigned to the Forestville barracks and was recently engaged to be married, said State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. Brown was working off-duty at the time of the shooting, Shipley said. Many troopers do security work as part-time jobs, but it must be approved by the state police command, he said.

Eugene Grant, the mayor of nearby Seat Pleasant, called Brown a "beacon of light" who grew up in the community and was well known. Brown had mentored hundreds of young men through a group he founded in 2007 called Young Men Enlightening Younger Men.

"What's so tragic about this is if the perpetrator of this crime had said he didn't have any money ... more than likely, Wesley would have paid the bill," Grant said. "That's the kind of person Wesley was. He had a golden heart."

A 2007 Maryland Gazette article about the group said Brown ran into problems himself as a teenager, including being kicked out of high school for fighting, but had turned his life around. He wanted to inspire teens to do the same.

William Hodge, who works at the Old Country Buffett next to the Applebee's, said there have long been safety concerns in the area and that it's not unusual for restaurants to hire security.

"I wouldn't walk up this road at 1 o'clock in the morning," Hodge said. He said there have been robberies, vandalism and incidents where customers have attacked employees at nearby restaurants.

Still, "this is extreme right here, killing a cop, you just don't do that," he said. "This is going to put the criminals here on high alert."

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