Officer Killed by Fellow Police

O A K L A N D, Calif., Jan, 12 -- An undercover police officer who had cornered a fleeing suspect was shot and killed by fellow officers, Oakland Police Department officials said today.

Officer William Wilkins, who had been with the police force for seven years, was shot around 11 p.m. Thursday and died at Highland Hospital early today.

At a somber news conference, Lt. Paul Berlin of the Oakland Police Department said Wilkins, 29, was on a drug stakeout and was not in uniform when he spotted a stolen car speeding by.

Berlin said Wilkins caught the alleged car thief near the San Leandro border with Oakland. Wilkins was holding the suspect at gunpoint in a driveway when the two uniformed officers arrived.

At least one officer opened fire, and Wilkins was hit several times in the upper torso, Berlin said. He added that 11 shell casings were found at the scene. Berlin did not know if Wilkins returned the fire.

Little Experience

The two officers, who have been on the force for less than a year, tried to revive him. They were both were extremely traumatized by the incident, Berlin said.

It was unclear how Wilkins knew the car was stolen, or why the two officers were apparently unaware that an undercover operation was taking place in the area. Investigators are checking radio tapes, he said.

The alleged car thief is in custody and could face a murder charge in Wilkins' death, Berlin said.

Wilkins, who had been on the Oakland Police force for seven years, leaves a wife and 10-month-old son.

"Our sympathy goes out to the family," said Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, who attended the news conference. "This is the kind of tragedy we hope never happens."