LAUREL, Md. (CBSDC) — A massive search for the man suspected of shooting a Howard County police officer Wednesday has ended.
Authorities say Stephon Prather, 29, was spotted by officers walking on Route 1 around 8:45 a.m. in Laurel. He was ordered to surrender, complied and was taken into custody without incident, bringing a 17-hour manhunt to a close.
Police said Prather didn’t have a weapon on him when he was taken into custody, but police later found a handgun believed to be Prather’s deep inside a storm drain in a wooded area in Laurel. Investigators said it’s likely Prather hid inside the drain throughout the night.
The alleged triggerman was placed on a stretcher and taken to Shock Trauma in Baltimore for treatment of a gunshot wound to the leg. Howard County Police Chief William McMahon said Prather was likely injured during the shootout with police a day earlier.
“We are relieved that our efforts throughout the night resulted in the apprehension of this suspect before he could hurt anyone else,” McMahon said.
Earlier Thursday, authorities stated schools would have an increased police presence out of an “abundance of caution” while the search for Prather continued.
Police focused their search on a wooded area where Prather was seen fleeing following the shooting. The department enlisted everyone from “SWAT teams to Academy recruits” to assist in the search. Authorities will continue searching the area for Prather’s weapon.
Prather is suspected of shooting Howard County police officer Steven Houk Wednesday afternoon in Laurel. Houk, 30, a two-veteran of the department, remains in serious condition at Shock Trauma.
“We remain concerned for Officer Houk who was injured, but are happy to report that his prognosis is good,” McMahon said, who added that Houk is alert and talking. “I am grateful and proud of the outstanding work by all of the officers involved, both from Howard County and surrounding jurisdictions.”
A $50,000 reward had been offered for information that leads to the arrest and capture of Prather.
A local business owner called police around 4 p.m. Wednesday and said they saw a man walking around with a gun in the 9500 block of Washington Boulevard in Laurel.
When officers responded to the scene and confronted the suspect Wednesday, he immediately opened fire, striking Houk. The other two officers exchanged gunshots before the suspect fled on foot into the woods.