Minutes after being pulled over by a state trooper on the side of Interstate 95 in White Marsh this week, 23-year-old Bel Air resident Scott Kampes was slumped over in the driver's seat of the car he was driving — fatally wounded from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, according to Maryland State Police.
Police said the shot, from a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun found in Kampes' lap, was not heard by the two state troopers at the scene or by his uncle, who was also there. The uncle was in a patrol car parked directly behind the vehicle Kampes was in, telling the officers that Kampes had stolen the vehicle from his grandparents, police said.
The uncle, who has not been identified, had apparently been following Kampes down the highway, telling police his nephew's location along the way, before he was stopped by the first responding trooper.
Police say Kampes, of the 1800 block of Oxford Square, was able to kill himself shortly after being pulled over in part because of the family dynamics at play at the scene.
"It really muddied the water," said Sgt. Marc Black, a police spokesman.
Just before 2 p.m. Tuesday, Kampes' uncle called the JFK Barrack to report that Kampes had stolen a family-owned vehicle and was headed toward the highway. The uncle said he was following Kampes in his own vehicle.
A trooper from the barrack located both vehicles soon after on southbound Interstate 95, just north of White Marsh Boulevard, and pulled the car over, police said. Kampes stopped and the uncle pulled his vehicle in front of the vehicle Kampes was driving. The trooper then pulled behind Kampes.
The trooper got out and, after taking the keys to the car Kampes had been driving, returned to his patrol car with the uncle to discuss the situation.
The uncle informed the trooper that the car Kampes was driving belonged to Kampes' grandparents. The grandparents had not reported the car stolen but had called the uncle and asked him to help, police said.
Because the grandparents had not reported the car stolen, and because the uncle did not own the car Kampes was driving, Black said, the trooper was trying to determine the facts "instead of allowing it to escalate into something it shouldn't have."
If the car had been reported stolen, and Kampes' uncle had not been at the scene, the trooper who responded would have been more likely to detain Kampes immediately, Black said, rather than take his keys and leave him in the vehicle alone.
"The trooper more than likely would have detained the suspect as soon as he could, depending on whether he felt it was safe to do so alone," Black said. "He may have waited for another trooper, and it would also depend on traffic."
The trooper did not search Kampes' vehicle before leaving him alone, Black said.
As the trooper and the uncle spoke, a second trooper arrived on the scene and stopped at the first trooper's vehicle to discuss what was going on, Black said. The arriving trooper then walked to the vehicle Kampes was in.
"He was going up — proper procedure — just to keep an eye on the suspect in the vehicle," Black said.
It was then that the trooper noticed Kampes was slumped over, Black said.
Black said nobody heard the shot fired, though the handgun did not have a silencer, in part because of the noise created by traffic.
"It was also a small-caliber weapon — it was a .22 — so it does not make a lot of noise," Black said.
Kampes was transported to Franklin Square Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, Black said.
Investigators have learned Kampes had previously threatened to commit suicide, Black said, and they are trying to determine how Kampes obtained the gun. The investigation is continuing.
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