A Belair Road gun shop owner was killed and another man seriously wounded yesterday during a robbery by at least four men who broke open display cases and escaped with as many as 50 handguns, Baltimore police said.
Five suspects were rounded up by police within two hours of the shooting, and three others were captured last night. But one man managed to elude arrest, and police were still searching for most of the stolen weapons.
The robbers' daylight assault at the Northeast Gun Shop was the latest in a series of gun thefts in Maryland this year, but police said last night they had no reason to believe it was linked to earlier incidents.
Killed in the 11:50 a.m. robbery was Charles E. "Eddie" Scheuerman, 53, owner and operator of the business in the 4900 block of Belair Road for at least 21 years. Police said he was wounded in the chest by a shotgun blast and died on arrival at Francis Scott Key Medical Center.
A bystander in the store, Michael Berman, a 42-year-old electronics employee who lives in the 11700 block of Morning Mist Lane in Columbia, was shot once in the upper back and was listed in stable condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Police said two gang members entered the gun shop as the owner was talking to Mr. Berman. Mr. Scheuerman's son, John, who works with him, had just left to go to a nearby business. As the two men started to look at some of the weapons on display, two others entered the shop, and one of them approached Mr. Scheuerman and shot him in the chest before he could say, "May I help you," said Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman.
Mr. Hill said another of the men turned and shot Mr. Berman in the back with a handgun.
While the victims were lying on the floor, the four robbers broke the glass cases on two walls of the shop, removed 43 to 50 handguns of various sizes and stuffed them into a green canvas duffel bag they had carried into the store, police said.
Witnesses told police that the robbers fled in three cars -- a white Buick, a red Volkswagen and a brown Ford Escort.
"Fortunately, it was done in broad daylight on Belair Road," Lt. Robert M. Stanton of the homicide unit. "Several people stopped to write tag numbers."
The Buick was spotted moments later by police officers traveling to the address listed for its tag numbers in computerized Motor Vehicle Administration records. The officers followed it to a two-story row house in the 1200 block of Clendenin Street, where the car's occupants ran inside with the duffel bag.
An officer who went to the rear of the building caught one suspect climbing out a first-floor window, and three others were coaxed from the building as other police officers surrounded the house, Mr. Hill said.
Out of fear that a fifth suspect might have taken a 2-year-old child hostage in the house, members of the Police Department's Quick Response Team went inside, where they found the toddler unharmed in an empty second-floor bathtub, Mr. Hill said, adding that no one else was found in the building.
A .45-caliber handgun was found on a first-floor dining room table and another on the roof, where it apparently had been thrown by one of the suspects, police said.
A fifth man was taken into custody in a house in the 2300 block of Brookfield Avenue. Police identified him only as the son of a man who owns the white Buick thought to have been one of the getaway cars.
Police obtained a search warrant last night for the house on Clendenin Street, then examined it. They also arrested three men who arrived as the officers were at work, but a fourth eluded capture, police said.
Seized at the house, Mr. Hill said, were an Uzi semiautomatic firearm, eight handguns of various sizes, a sawed-off rifle, boxes of ammunition of various calibers, magazines for semiautomatic weapons, walkie-talkies and beepers.
"We think they had time to transfer some of the weapons to another bag, and we're looking for a guy we believe might have about 30 additional weapons, including one Uzi," Mr. Hill said.
Lieutenant Stanton said eight guns thought to have been taken in the robbery were recovered but that most of the weapons remained missing.
Another homicide investigator, Sgt. Steven Lehmann, said some the weapons -- 9mm and .45-caliber handguns -- are the type carried by drug dealers, he noted.
All three vehicles thought to have been used in the robbery-murder were recovered in the same neighborhood, police said.
More than 1,000 high-powered weapons have been stolen in 51 robberies of licensed firearm dealers in Maryland and Virginia this year, said David C. Troy, a special agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Washington district, which includes both states. The bureau was participating in the investigation of yesterday's robbery.
Agent Troy said the bureau has received information that the stolen guns are being sold to drug organizations operating in Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, where the weapons are used in turf battles between rival groups.
In 1974, the shop robbed yesterday was hit by burglars who stole about 25 handguns.
Joseph Brown, owner of the Valley Lounge adjacent to the gun shop, said Mr. Scheuerman's store was well equipped with security equipment. "All you had to do was touch the front door and the alarm would go off," he said.
"Eddie ran a good shop," he said "This is an ongoing affair with gun shop owners -- guys with guns going after more guns."
Police said Mr. Scheuerman owned and operated two other gun shops but was not carrying a gun when he was shot.