A 25-year-old Westport man has been arrested and charged in the Friday night robbery of a Liberty Road supermarket that may have been the latest in a string of holdups by a roving gang of shotgun-wielding bandits, police said.
The theft of $5,100 from the Super Pride store in the 7400 block of Liberty Road came one night after a group of robbers took about $800 from 27 patrons of a Chi-Chi's restaurant in Timonium.
However, Baltimore County police spokesman Sgt. Steven Doarnberger said police have no hard evidence that Thursday and Friday's robberies are linked, except for similarities in weaponry, types of dress and method.
Each group of robbers consisted of four men, three armed with sawed-off shotguns and one with a pistol, Doarnberger said. The man with the handgun in the supermarket robbery fired his weapon into the floor when one cashier seemed slow to open her register. The same Super Pride market was held up Jan. 19, too, that time by two bandits armed with shotguns, police said.
Thomas Isaac Smith, of the 2600 block of Ridgely St., was arrested by State Police Saturday night as he returned a rental car at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. He was charged with armed robbery and a handgun violation, Doarnberger said, and was being held on $150,000 bail.
He was awaiting a bail review hearing today in Towson District Court. He was arrested based on information from Baltimore police, although no gun or money was recovered, Doarnberger said.
Although the method, arms and manner of the market robbery is similar to those in a string of 13 county restaurant and fast-food holdups since late last year, police have not made a definite link between this arrest and earlier holdups, Doarnberger said. Police have no specific descriptions of the suspected robbers, who are also wanted in a string of 27 street robberies, mostly of women walking alone in Towson or Woodlawn.
Friday's robbery began just before the supermarket's 9 p.m. closing time, when the four men, dressed in black, knee-length coats, forced their way inside.
Two went to the office and forced the store manager to open the safe, while the other two, including the man with the handgun, approached one cashier. There were eight employees in the store and one customer, Doarnberger said.
When one cashier appeared a bit slow opening her register, the man with the pistol fired it into the floor. The men then collected their loot and escaped in a dark-colored Honda, a witness told police.
Thursday night, four bandits, three toting sawed-off shotguns and wearing olive-drab coats, burst into a Chi-Chi's restaurant in Timonium about 11 p.m. They forced 27 patrons to the floor and stripped them of cash and jewelry. One bandit was in the process of forcing the manager to open the office safe when all four suddenly escaped in a light-colored hatchback that was seen speeding toward southbound Interstate 83.
County police have formed special teams to investigate the similarities in the string of robberies, which police believe may involve young men who operate in groups of two, three or four, using the shotguns to intimidate victims.