A Baltimore kindergarten teacher was listed in satisfactory condition last night after being shot Saturday afternoon outside a department store at the Westview Mall when she refused to give her purse to a suspected thief.
Katherine Dwyer, 43, was shot just after 3 p.m. as she was walking outside the Caldor store at the mall, located along Baltimore National Pike at the Beltway.
Witnesses told police that a car with three people approached Mrs. Dwyer. One of the occupants of the car stepped out and tried to grab her purse, police said, but she would not let go of her bag and was shot in the shoulder.
The single bullet broke her upper left arm, moved through her chest and into her abdomen, but missed all her vital organs, said her husband, Robert L. Dwyer. He said he and the couple's two children, ages 12 and 9, talked briefly with Mrs. Dwyer at her bedside yesterday.
"Apparently, she felt her life was in imminent danger and basically got into a struggle with the guy," Mr. Dwyer said.
He said his wife had finished shopping when she was approached in her car by an assailant. "He was trying to pull her out of the car. The purse was in easy reach."
Mrs. Dwyer told her husband that she thought she was a random target and was parked in an isolated part of the parking lot.
Doctors told the family Mrs. Dwyer was lucky to survive a pistol shot fired from point-blank range.
Mrs. Dwyer, who teaches at the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in West Baltimore, will remain in intensive care for a few days and is expected to make a complete recovery, her husband said.
The school's principal, Elaine M. Davis, said a crisis intervention team would be there today to counsel the nearly 40 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students Mrs. Dwyer taught, as well as a number of her former students in the first and second grades.
The principal said Mrs. Dwyer was beginning her fourth year of teaching at Thomas Jefferson, and noted that "she's also a parent at my school." Mrs. Dwyer's younger child, a daughter, is in the fourth grade there, Ms. Davis said.
According to Baltimore County police, dozens of shoppers saw the shooting and the car used by the robber and his companions and provided its license numbers.
The car was found parked on the shopping center lot several hours later, but police said they had no suspect in the shooting.