Officials: Too soon to say if charges in firefighter death

AP News
Posted: Apr 18, 2016 4:50 PM

LARGO, Md. (AP) — Authorities said Monday that it's too soon to say whether charges will be filed against a man who fatally shot a firefighter who was attempting to enter his home to check on his health.

Angela Alsobrooks, the Prince George's County state's attorney, said Monday that investigators need to access "what's reasonable given what his belief was about whether danger existed or not."

Firefighter John Ulmschneider was killed Friday when firefighters went to a Temple Hills home after the brother of the man who lived there told authorities he was concerned about the man. When firefighters arrived, the person inside was unresponsive, so they decided to force entry, officials said. As that was happening, the person inside fired several rounds. Another firefighter, 19-year-old volunteer firefighter Kevin Swain, was also shot but is expected to survive. The brother of the man who lived at the home was also shot but not seriously injured.

Alsobrooks said it's an active investigation and prosecutors "will likely present this case to a grand jury." Asked if charges were expected, Alsobrooks said: "We don't know yet. Again, it's so early."

Alsobrooks spoke Monday at a news conference with Marc Bashoor, the county's fire chief, and Hank Stawinski, the county police chief. Stawinski said the man who fired the shots has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

Stawinski said investigators have not been able to interview the shooter's brother or Swain.

"It's not that we have facts that didn't lead us to it," Stawinski said, when asked about potential charges. "It's an absence of facts that would get us to where we're confident in placing that charge."

He also said forensic evidence such as the position of a door and number of shots fired were still being gathered.

"When we have the facts, we'll make the decision based on those facts, and again we want the process to play out," Stawinski said.

Stawinski said firefighters "took every opportunity to make their presence known, based on what I have so far."

Bashoor said that after Ulmschneider's funeral, which is scheduled for Wednesday, the department will examine procedures "that more clearly identifies what our folks should do during welfare checks that doesn't exist today," noting that the department currently has protocols in place.