FORESTVILLE, Md. (AP) -- Police are searching for a man who shot and killed an off-duty Maryland state trooper early Friday about a half hour after the trooper escorted him from a restaurant over a disputed bill, Prince George's County police said.
Trooper First Class Wesley W. Brown, 24, escorted a disorderly customer from an Applebee's on Thursday evening. That customer shot Brown when he left the restaurant around 12:40 a.m. Friday, State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence Sheridan said.
Brown, who was wearing a jacket that identified him as a police officer on the back, was talking on the phone in the parking lot when he was shot, Sheridan said.
Covered in blood, Brown made it back inside the restaurant and passed out, police said. Brown died at a local hospital.
Investigators have spoken to more than 50 witnesses who were at the crowded restaurant Thursday night, said county police Maj. Andy Ellis. Detectives will also review surveillance video from the restaurant and surrounding businesses.
"We're going to find out who he is. There's no question," Ellis said. "There has never been an unsolved police shooting (in the county)."
Gov. Martin O'Malley visited the scene Friday morning as police searched the area. Later in the day, his office announced that flags would be flown at half-staff in Brown's honor. He also authorized a $25,000 reward to be added to the $25,000 being offered by the Prince George's Police Department.
Brown's cousin Kenneth Pollard, 48, also visited the scene Friday morning.
"He was a good guy and he tried to do the right thing and somebody took his life," he said. Pollard said Brown had eight older sisters and an older brother.
Kids could visit Brown anytime at the modest home he shared with brother, said another of Brown's cousins, Otamere Oronsaye. Brown worked the second job to help pay for the group's activities and was sponsoring a trip to New York on Friday, he said. He got engaged last month.
Relatives were coming and going from the house on Friday, and people were leaving teddy bears and roses on Brown's Ford F-150 pickup truck parked out front.
Oronsaye said his cousin was a responsible, generous and trustworthy person.
"We all got strength from him. He touched so many people. I wish I could touch just one-tenth of the people he touched," Oronsaye said.
Brown was assigned to the Forestville barracks and was working off-duty at the restaurant, said State Police spokesman Greg Shipley. Many troopers do security work part-time, but it must be approved by the state police command, he said.
Eugene Grant, the mayor of nearby Seat Pleasant, called Brown a "beacon of light" who grew up in the community and was well-known. Brown had mentored hundreds of young men through a group he founded in 2007 called Young Men Enlightening Younger Men.
"What's so tragic about this is if the perpetrator of this crime had said he didn't have any money ... more than likely, Wesley would have paid the bill," Grant said.
A 2007 Maryland Gazette article about the group said Brown ran into problems himself as a teenager, including being kicked out of high school for fighting, but had turned his life around. He wanted to inspire teens to do the same.
William Hodge, who works at the Old Country Buffett next to the Applebee's, said there have long been safety concerns in the area and that it's not unusual for restaurants to hire security.
"I wouldn't walk up this road at 1 o'clock in the morning," Hodge said. He said there have been robberies, vandalism and incidents where customers have attacked employees at nearby restaurants. Still, he said, killing a police officer was extreme.
"This is going to put the criminals here on high alert."