The scene in Baltimore County and the city has become stuck on instant replay -- a small group of young men armed with powerful weapons, moving with military precision, robbing and terrorizing patrons and employees of supermarkets, fast-food outlets and other businesses.
Last night, Perry Hall was where a now infamous, highly mobile gang of bandits, or some copy-cats, robbed another fast-food restaurant and escaped with an undetermined amount of cash.
City police, meanwhile, announced the filing of formal criminal charges against a 19-year-old man already charged by Baltimore County police in three armed robberies committed by the shotgun-toting thieves who have struck at least two dozen businesses since late last year.
Sadiyq Abdullah Muhammed, of no fixed address, was charged by city authorities yesterday with participating in robberies of two fast-food eateries, a supermarket and a shoe store.
Muhammed, also known as Tony Bedford, was recently charged by county police with two counts of armed robbery, attempted murder and attempted armed robbery. In one of those robberies, an assistant manager of the Pikesville Holiday Inn was shot in the abdomen.
"We can't say he's the shooter, but we have evidence placing him there," said E. Jay Miller, spokesman for county police.
In at least two other holdups by the gang, one shotgun blast was fired near the head of a supermarket manager in the city and violent threats have been made against victims, police have said.
Police in neither jurisdiction are saying whether an arrest of Muhammed is close. He is described as a 5-foot, 8-inch black man who weighs about 145 pounds. He wears a gold ring in his right nostril and the word "Israel" is tattooed on his left arm.
Detectives, who have been hard pressed to halt the blitz by the gang of armed robbers, or perhaps a copycat version of the original band, are not commenting on any possible leads in solving the crimes.
In last night's robbery, three masked men entered the Kentucky Fried Chicken in the 9100 block of Belair Road, Perry Hall, about 8:41 p.m.
"They came in quietly," said Frank Mayfield, Kentucky Fried's director of operations at Baltimore and Harford counties' stores. "But two jumped over the counter and pulled guns on the assistant manager."
Moving quickly to avoid capture, the gunmen ordered the employee to open all the safes and cash drawers, which he did, Mayfield said.
Before the bandits left with an undisclosed amount of cash, a mask one of them was wearing fell off. "He threatened to kill [the employee]," Mayfield said.
"They put all employees in the walk-in cooler and made them lie down," he said. Mayfield said there were two customers in the store, but they were "absolutely ignored."
No one was injured, police said. "Everybody's OK, other than being shook up," Mayfield said.
Mayfield said he didn't know how much money was taken, but said it was "minimal" because the store had taken defensive measures after the rash of robberies began.
Mayfield said the men were in the store no longer than three minutes -- a trademark of the shotgun gang members, who show knowledge of police response time and alarm systems.
Last night's robbers are described as black men in their early to late 20s. They carried two shotguns and one pistol, police said.
One is about 5 feet 6, with a heavy built. He was wearing a blue sweat suit.
The second man is described as 6 feet, 160 pounds, wearing a gray ski mask, a T-shirt and jeans, police said.
The third accomplice was described as 6 feet tall, 160 pounds. He wore a white shirt.
The incident was the fourth armed robbery in the county this week.
On Sunday, two McDonald's in Essex and Carney were robbed.
Besides robbing businesses, police said, a group of men in cars and armed with shotguns late last year and in January also robbed numerous pedestrians, usually women, along the York Road and Loch Raven Boulevard corridors.
Police in the city have formed a special robbery details to capture the bandits.
Under the plan, teams of four or more officers supported by Special Weapons and Tactical (SWAT) units patrol each of the city's nine police districts in an attempt to catch the robbers after they hit a business.
"We've got a lot of people on this thing and we'll keep changing our tactics," said Dennis Hill, city police spokesman.