Police Question Person of Interest in Trooper Shooting

Investigators identify and locate man from surveillance picture

Prince George's County police said they have found their person of interest in the shooting death of a Maryland State trooper.

Investigators said they found the man seen in surveillance pictures and brought him in for questioning Saturday.  The man was questioned, but has not been arrested or charged with killing the trooper, Wesley Brown.  The man remains in police custody on an unrelated charge.

The shooting happened early Friday morning outside the Applebee's restaurant on Donnell Drive in Forestville, Md., possibly over an unpaid bill. 

Brown had been a state trooper for more than three years. 

"There's no way to make sense of this, of the murder of a dedicated 24-year-old trooper who was doing his job," Gov. Martin O'Malley said.

Brown was working off-duty at the Applebee's restaurant.  Police said the shooting was the result of an incident earlier in the evening at the restaurant. They said a customer refused to pay the bill and became disorderly at about midnight, News4's Megan McGrath reported, and Brown escorted him out of the restaurant.

Police believe that the person returned a half-hour later and shot Brown and then fled on foot. Police said Brown was wearing a jacket clearly marked with "Police" on the back, and he had his service weapon on him, but he didn't have time to pull it, McGrath said. The gun was found at the scene.

Police said the initial investigation showed that Brown was talking on the phone when he was shot without warning. Multiple shell casings were found at the scene.

Brown collapsed back inside the restaurant and was transported to an area hospital, where he died. His death is considered in the line of duty, News4's Tracee Wilkins reported . Even though he was not on duty for state police at the time of the shooting, once the shooting occurred, his status became on duty.

The gunman ran from the scene, and police believed he might be hiding out nearby, so officers fanned out to search the neighborhood, McGrath reported.

Investigators interviewed more than 50 witnesses who were at the restaurant Thursday night, Prince George's County police Maj. Andy Ellis said. Detectives also reviewed surveillance video from the restaurant and surrounding businesses.

"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)."

A close friend told News4's Elaine Reyes that Brown grew up in Seat Pleasant, Md., was a graduate of Crossland High School, and was engaged to be married.  Brown started a mentoring program for young people in his neighborhood when he was 21-years-old to help them become responsible adults, according to MSP spokesman Greg Shipley.

"He reached out to them, those in his community," said Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant. "He saw the conditions that they lived under. He understood the pressures that they had to deal with every single day. And as a result of that, he reached out to them to let them know that there is a better life."

According to a 2007 Maryland Gazette article about Brown's group, Young Men Enlightening Younger Men, Brown was a problem teen himself, getting kicked out of high school once for fighting, before he turned his life around, the Associated Press reported. 

Brown was planning to take his group on a trip to New York today, Reyes said. His pickup truck has become a memorial. A candlelight vigil was held outside of his home Friday night.

Brown was the 42nd Maryland state trooper to die in the line of duty. Maryland flags will be flown at half staff in honor of an off-duty state trooper who was shot and killed, the AP reported.

There is a total of $75,000 in rewards being offered for information in this case -- $25,000 from the state, $25,000 from the county, and $25,000 from Applebees.

Stay with NBC4 and NBCWashington.com for more information.

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