SILVER SPRING — The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the District of Columbia ruled the death of a Montgomery County police officer a self-inflicted injury late on Oct. 15.
Early Monday morning, Montgomery County Police Department (MCP) reported that Officer Thomas J. Bomba, 38, encountered subjects acting disorderly on the top floor of a parking garage on the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring.
MCP reported on Twitter earlier in the day that Bomba had called for assistance over the police radio while responding to a disorderly subject, or subjects, and was found by responding officers with a gunshot wound in the parking garage.
Acting Chief of Police Marcus Jones announced that Bomba had succumbed to his wounds at a local hospital.
Jones explained Monday afternoon that the officer’s death was initially being investigated as a homicide.
“Today it is with a heavy heart that I announce that Montgomery County police has lost one of our own,” Jones said. “We continue to investigate this event, and we will do everything in our power to ascertain what transpired this morning.”
Jones explained that Bomba had been a member of the Montgomery County police force for 13 years.
During a press conference on Oct. 14, Jones explained that officers investigating the shooting would keep all possibilities open. He said that although police did not find any compelling evidence that Bomba had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and “no suspect information” was releasesd.
“At this point in time we are treating this as a homicide. Until we have information to suggest otherwise, there’s no evidence to support (theories) at this point in time, but until we gather those facts through medical examiner information and do further investigation with information that we may be able to develop, this is how we’ll treat this investigation,” Jones said.
The Major Crimes Division of MCP is in charge of the investigation, Jones said.
“We are seeking assistance from the public for anyone who may have witnessed any sort of disorderly behavior around the garage area of downtown Silver Spring on Fenton (Street) or Ellsworth (Drive) or anywhere nearby,” Jones said.
He also urged the public to contact the police if they had any contact with Bomba before the incident.
According to MCP, Bomba was wearing a body camera at the time of the incident but it had not been activated.
“We continue to evaluate evidence collected at the scene as part of our commitment to completing a thorough and exhaustive investigation,” MCP wrote.
Officers are also looking for security cameras in the area that might give insights on any possible suspects.
Preliminary investigation did not turn up a weapon other that Bomba’s on the scene of the crime.
Jones estimated that after Bomba called for assistance he was found within about four minutes. He also reassured the community that police do not believe that there is any immediate danger to public safety.
During response to the incident, schools in the area were ordered by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to shelter in place.
MCPS confirmed that three local schools in Silver Spring were issued shelter-in-place orders; Silver Spring International Middle School, East Silver Spring Elementary School and Sligo Creek Elementary School were all issued the order which allows the school to continue normal instruction, but individuals are not allowed to leave until an “all clear” notice is given.
The shelter in place order was later lifted.
Following MCP’s announcement of the medical examiner’s findings, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich released a statement on Oct. 15 noting the incredible stress that officers are placed under in their line of work.
“The county continues to mourn the death of Officer Bomba. This situation shines the light on how stressful law enforcement can be, and we must find ways to better support the men and women who have pledged to protect us,” he said. “While we all experience stress in our lives, it is difficult to imagine what law enforcement officers are going through on a daily basis. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to Officer Bomba’s family, his friends, the Montgomery County Police Department and our entire public safety workforce.”
Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro also extended sympathy and condolences during the press conference on behalf of the full council.
“We will work with our county executive to make sure that whatever support, and resources are available,” she said.
Support also came from Maryland Senator Van Hollen who released a statement expressing his condolences.
“I send my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Officer TJ Bomba. We all owe a debt to him and the Maryland police officers who put their lives at risk every day to keep our communities safe. I am closely monitoring the situation in Silver Spring,” he said.
Bomba leaves behind a wife and two children, according to officials.