NRP Officer Steps Down After Fleeing Scene From Accident

WEST OCEAN CITY — A high-ranking Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) officer and Ocean City resident resigned this week after an alleged drunk-driving and hit-and-run incident in West Ocean City last weekend.

Shortly after 9:30 p.m. last Saturday, the Maryland State Police (MSP) Berlin barrack received a call reporting a hit-and-run crash that had just occurred on eastbound Route 50 at Route 707, or Old Bridge Road. According to a statement from the MSP, the caller reported a Chevrolet Tahoe was stopped at a red light when it reversed and backed into his vehicle.

According to police reports, the Chevrolet Tahoe then left the scene, with the caller following behind while on the phone with the MSP barrack. MSP troopers responded and located the Tahoe in a parking lot near Route 113 in Berlin. The driver was identified as Earnest Leatherbury, Jr., 55, of Ocean City, who is the deputy superintendent of the NRP, essentially the agency’s second in command.

MSP troopers detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from Leatherbury and an impaired driving investigation was initiated, according to police reports. After failing to complete field sobriety tests to the troopers’ satisfaction, Leatherbury was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, failure to remain at the scene of a property damage accident, negligent driving and unsafe backing.

The driver of the vehicle struck by Leatherbury did not report any injury at the scene. Leatherbury was transported to the MSP barrack for processing and was later released to a sober driver.

Leatherbury, a lieutenant colonel with the NRP, resigned this week after information about his arrest were made public. Executive command personnel at the NRP were notified of his arrest.

Leatherbury joined the NRP in 2016 and became the second highest ranking officer in the agency. He retired from the MSP in 2012 after nearly three decades with that agency. In the interim, he served as chief of police at UMES.

The NRP is charged with patrolling and enforcing laws on waterways from Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland to the Atlantic Ocean in Ocean City, including boating under the influence enforcement. The agency also has enforcement powers on land across the state.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.