Investigation into deadly police shooting

March 17, 2008 8:44:43 PM PDT
A naked stabbing suspect was killed and a female police officer wounded in a hail of 18 bullets fired from police-issued guns.The incident happened in 900 block of Morton Street in Camden just after 7:30 this morning.

According to police, Tracy Morton's 19-year-old nephew, Lamont Morton, stabbed the father of one of her children, William Custis, in the shoulder with a steak knife during a fight over stolen money.

When police arrived, they found Lamont Morton naked, holding a knife and wandering the neighborhood, said Camden County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Jason Laughlin.

The first police officer to the scene was a 15-year veteran, Romanita Rivera, who was confronted by Morton.

Investigators said Morton charged the officer. A 25-year Camden Police veteran lieutenant attempted to intercept Morton with his police SUV. Morton hit the front of the police vehicle, but he regained his footing and continued to charge at Rivera.

She fired at Morton several times but failed to stop his advance.

Laughlin said Morton and Rivera then got into a physical altercation and Morton was somehow able to get control of her weapon, though it was unclear whether he fired it.

A third city officer on the scene, an 18-year veteran patrolman, then shot Morton several times, killing him, and possibly wounding Rivera.

"There was a struggle that involved a gun," Laughlin said.

The wounded officer was hit at least four times. Morton died from seven gunshot wounds, police said. In all, 18 shots were fired -- nine each from 2 officers' weapons.

Investigators are not ready yet to say who actually wounded the officer.

Word from Cooper University Hospital is that the injured officer is making good progress. Rivera had been in serious condition when she arrived, but she was later upgraded to stable condition.

Rivera was the first police officer shot in the line of duty in more than a year in Camden, a city that consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous in the nation.

Dozens of fellow officers and family members rushed to the hospital when word got out.

Initial reports said she had been shot in the head. It turned out to be what's described as a deep graze wound. The 45-year-old mother of three children was also shot in the shoulder and the arm.

Police Chief Edward Hargis says Officer Rivera is a well-liked and effective member of the force.

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office said it could take weeks or months to sort out exactly what happened and whether police followed the proper protocol.

(Some information from The Associated Press)