A police raid last night on a suspected crack house in West Baltimore may have broken up a ring of shotgun-wielding robbers who have terrorized Baltimore-area grocery stores and fast-food restaurants since fall.
Using information obtained during a recent armed robbery arrest, police from Baltimore and Baltimore County raided a house in the 3900 block of Woodridge Road in Edmondson Village about 6:45 p.m., said Dennis S. Hill, police spokesman.
They found six men and one woman in what Mr. Hill described as a crack house, containing suspected powdered cocaine, crack and heroin,as well as syringes and vials.
One man, Antonio Darnell Brewer, 21, of the 200 block of Stonecroft Road, was suspected by police of being the man who had fired a shotgun toward the ceiling during the robbery Tuesday of a Super Fresh Market in the 600 block of Gorsuch Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, Mr. Hill said. Mr. Brewer was charged in that robbery, and with weapons and narcotics violations.
The five other men also are suspected by police as being members of the ring. But they, along with the woman, were charged only with narcotics violations last night, police said, because investigators have not had time to complete their work.
"Detectives feel that they've probably broken the back of this ring," Mr. Hill said. Robbery and weapons charges are expected next week.
Police have made one other arrest since the robberies began. Thomas Isaac Smith of Southwest Baltimore has been charged in the Jan. 28 robbery of a Super Pride market in Woodmoor that has been held up twice since fall.
Last night's arrests came on the heels of another holdup by armed robbers who appeared to have no fear of crowded places.
About 8:20 p.m. Thursday, three men with shotguns and a handgun burst through the front door of The Food Place in the 8500 block of Liberty Road in Randallstown and announced a holdup. A fourth man waited in a getaway car.
One robber jumped through the bulletproof glass of the supermarket's office where William J. Buckholz and a clerk were counting money, Mr. Buckholz said yesterday.
"He came through the glass so fast . . . as if he was flying. He fell on the floor, then jumped up and pointed the gun at my face and told me to lay down," said Mr. Buckholz, who was struck with the gun when he didn't move fast enough.
Police said many of the recent robberies have been similar. Armed men enter the store, announce a holdup, force victims to lie on the floor, then split up -- some emptying registers and customers' pockets, others going for money in the safe.
Sometimes the bandits use sawed-off shotguns, sometimes handguns. More than once, one has become anxious and fired shots toforce people to move quicker.
"They have begun hitting people in the head with the gun whether they comply or not," said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman.
The manager of a Murry's Steaks store in Catonsville was struck in the face when she was held up Jan. 28 by two men armed with sawed-off shotguns. The woman, who asked that she not be identified, fearing reprisals, recalled that she had arrived at work about 7 a.m. and noticed a man walking a few doors away.
He walked up as she was unlocking the door and asked when the store would open. As she told him the store would open at 10 a.m., things turned ugly.
"He said, 'Bitch, you're gonna open up right now,' " the manager said. "And then I turned around and there was a shotgun in my face."
As they entered the store, a second man with a sawed-off shotgun came through the door.
The woman headed toward the safe at the back of the store. Before opening the safe, she turned off the alarm. That's when she felt something come smashing into her eye.
"I don't know if it was his elbow or the gun," she said. "But he let me know not to try anything."
He told her that if she tried to trip any alarms, "I'm going to blow you away. I am not scared of dying."
The man took about $3,000, then ordered the woman into the freezer. She waited a few minutes, emerged and sounded the alarm.
Sleeping that first night after the robbery was tough. "I would close my eyes and see the guns," she said.
"It still bothers me."