Four shotgun-toting robbers who turned Valentine's Day into a nightmare for patrons of Chi-Chi's restaurant in Timonium Thursday night may have been responsible for some of the 27 other shotgun robberies in Baltimore County since Jan. 1.
Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman, said 13 commercial establishments have been robbed by shotgun-carrying bandits so far this year. In addition, 14 street robberies during the period have involved shotguns, he said.
In January, there were 19 robberies in the county involving shotguns, compared with four such shotgun robberies in January 1990, Sergeant Doarnberger said. The upsurge indicates that a band of robbers using shotguns may be committing the crimes, he said.
But he also cautioned that police were not certain the robberies were connected.
"It's all in the realm of speculation," he said.
At Chi-Chi's the robbers forced 26 patrons and employees to lie on the floor and stripped them of their cash and jewelry.
Four men entered the restaurant about 11 p.m. They pulled three shotguns and a semiautomatic handgun from beneath olive-drab raincoats, county police said.
After pointing the guns at the employees and patrons and ordering them to lie on the floor, the men moved around the restaurant taking cash and jewelry from the patrons. They then tried to get one of the employees to open a restaurant safe. But before the safe was open, police said, the suspects fled.
They were last seen in a white or beige hatchback-style car heading toward Interstate 83, police said.
Among the other robberies this year was one in which four men toting shotguns hit a Super Pride grocery store on Liberty Road on Jan. 19.
Four matching the same description hit a Basics Food Store on Liberty Road on Jan. 28, Sergeant Doarnberger said.
Two McDonald's restaurants, one on Loch Raven Boulevard and one on Washington Boulevard, were robbed by two men with shotguns on Jan. 28 and 29. The commercial robberies then slackened as street robberies picked up until the robbery at Chi-Chi's, Sergeant Doarnberger said.