When Allen Bolton and other residents of Floral Court in Crofton heard a woman screaming Monday night, they said it was only natural to run outside and help.
Bolton, 30, Richard Glass, 24, and Joe Noel, 35, along with other neighbors, pursued Thornell Dewitt Marshall after the robbery of a nearby grocery store and kidnapping of a 25-year-old pregnant woman.
The 30-year-old Gambrills man had already been chased out of the Giant store by outraged employees armed with sticks when he ran onto Route 3, police say, and forced the woman to drive to Floral Court, about a mile away. When the woman escaped, police charge, Marshall took off with her car.
"We just wanted to stop him," Bolton said. "That was just my first instinct."
Although the idea of a band of store clerks and residents chasing an armed man across a highway and through a neighborhood may seem unlikely, Crofton police Sgt. Debra French said such incidents are not unusual.
"The abduction of that woman and the fact that police used helicopters to search for the man was what brought the attention to it," she said.
For example, French said that in May, Crofton K-mart employees chased a shoplifter across the four-lane Route 3. Although the woman fought back when caught, the employees held her until police arrived.
In June, employees of the same store followed a man who had stolen film and surrounded him in the parking lot.
"When police arrived, all the employees were standing in the parking lot in a circle and there he was in the middle," French said. "It was kind of like monkey in the middle."
Although French said she doesn't want to "quash the enthusiasm" people have for helping police, she said people should be more aware of their own safety.
"They really shouldn't chase these types of people," she said, "because of the fact that they could get injured, and you don't know if these people are armed or not."
French said many of these residents or store employees are genuinely interested in helping when they go after a suspect.
"I think a lot of it, too, is the recent things that have happened around the area," she said. "And they just wanted to get the guy before he got away."
French was referring to the slaying of 42-year-old Crofton resident Gwyn Dixon Criswell last month. Criswell disappeared Sunday, Sept. 16, on a shopping trip. Her body was found Sept. 17 behind the Crofton Library.
Steven Gregory Anderson, 29, whom police described as a drifter, was charged with first-degree murder in her death.
That same week, two woman in Crofton were raped. Police charged Stanley Glenwood Prout, 29, of no fixed address, with one of the attacks.
Floral Court residents said publicity about those incidents prompted them to take Noel's truck and block off the only exit from the neighborhood, forcing the fugitive, who was armed with a knife, to abandon the stolen car between two town houses and run into a nearby woods.
"Everyone is so aware because of that woman that was killed here," Bolton said. "It's not like people stood by and did nothing (in the Marshall incident)."
Ed Dosek, president of the Crofton Civic Association, said he is proud of the residents' willingness to get involved and help.
"It is not vigilantism," he said. "People in the community reacted as normal folks would, trying to help someone."
Marshall was being held yesterday in the County Detention Center on a $250,000 bond.
Court records show that Marshall was arrested Jan. 18 by county police, who accused him of shoplifting a jacket from a Glen Burnie K-mart store. He was released on personal recognizance. On March 29, he was arrested in Frederick County on a charge of distributing fake crack cocaine. After posting a $5,000 bond, he was released on May 31.
Police charging documents also connect Marshall with the Oct. 3 robbery of a 7-11 store in Odenton, in which a clerk was hit with a hammer, and the Oct. 4 robbery of an Odenton grocery store.