Diamond Cab driver James Tilton Harden Jr., who had waited about seven hours to retrieve his taxi, considered himself a sort of prisoner last night.
"I'm just like a hostage," said Harden, 53. "I can't go nowhere."
Harden was also poorer because he couldn't drive his cab. "I've lost more than $100," he said.
Harden's role in the ordeal started shortly after noon yesterday when police in South Baltimore, returning fire after a man had fired at them, shot out the back window of his cab. The man then holed up in a house in the 2300 block of Norfolk St. and a standoff lasting more than six hours began.
"Oh no, thank God," responded Harden, who has driven cabs for 30 years, when asked if he was in the cab when the window was shot out. "I had just dropped a lady and her little boy off on Maisel Street and came down here" to Norfolk Street.
"I'm glad I wasn't in there," Harden said, adding that if the shooting had occurred 10 minutes later, he might have been in the cab.
The incident began about 12:02 p.m. when two plainclothes officers, patrolling in a car, believed a drug transaction was occurring in a crowd gathered at Kent Avenue and Norfolk Street, said Agent Arlene Jenkins, a police spokeswoman. The officers got out of the car to investigate.
"The suspect started to run from the crowd and the officers chased on foot," Jenkins said. "The suspect removed a handgun from his waistband and fired two times at the officers."
Officers Curtis Calhoun and Charles Carter returned fire, striking Harden's cab. The gunman ran about a half-block farther and dashed inside a house in the 2300 block of Norfolk St., Jenkins said. A woman who lives in the house had left the door unlocked while she talked with friends outside.
There, the standoff with police began with the suspect allegedly holding an acquaintance hostage.
Seven patrol cars, two 10-member tactical Quick Response Teams, at least six hostage negotiators and two ambulances responded, Jenkins said. Police also moved everyone out of two houses on each side of 2330 Norfolk, where the suspect was, Jenkins said.
When a bullhorn used by police negotiators failed to work, the negotiators entered the first floor of the rowhouse and communicated by yelling upstairs to a second-floor bedroom where the suspect and hostage were.
Jenkins said the man made one request during the negotiations. asked for water and was allowed to get some from the second-floor bathroom. "We didn't want to excite him," she said.
About 6:30 p.m., the suspect surrendered, police said. No one was injured.
The suspect, James Edward Simms, of no fixed address, was taken to Southern District where police charged him with kidnapping, assault with intent to murder, burglary, possession of a handgun, discharging a firearm and theft of a handgun, which police learned had been stolen from Baltimore County. A bail hearing today in District Court was set for Simms, police said.
Inside the house, police recovered a .38-caliber handgun in the bathroom, two small bags containing suspected cocaine residue a bedroom dresser and a hypodermic syringe, Jenkins said. A holster was recovered outside the house.
Police said they could not determine if the hostage, Harold Robinson, 24, of the 2200 block of Catherine St., had been held against his will.
"After 6 1/2 hours of negotiations, the negotiators couldn't determine whether Robinson was willfully staying inside or actually being held," Jenkins said.
Robinson is an acquaintance of Simms and of the woman who lives in the house. Robinson refused to press charges against Simms, police said.
Ralph Bailey, 35, of South Baltimore, who was in the crowd watching the incident, said he was happy about the outcome.
"I'm just glad everything ended safely and, hopefully, it won't happen again," Bailey said.