A trailer containing 40 aircraft rocket launchers and missing since last week has been found in the parking lot of an East Baltimore shopping center, authorities say.
A police officer on routine patrol spotted the 48-foot Fruehauf-brand trailer with Maine license plate F-79325 about 2:30 p.m. yesterday on the Erdman Avenue Shopping Center lot in the 3900 block of Erdman Ave., according to city police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"He knew that the trailer was wanted and contacted the FBI," says Agent Arlene Jenkins, police spokeswoman.
"We're very happy about that," says Bruno W. Smith, Baltimore group supervisor of ATF. "If it weren't for [Baltimore police], we'd still be looking."
He says the 40 launchers are all accounted for, but they were not a danger to the public because they couldn't explode.
ATF had alerted state, city and Anne Arundel County police as well as U.S. Customs officials about the missing trailer this week and focused their search within a 70-mile radius of Baltimore.
Last Saturday, Michael Rhodes, 26, of the first block of Forestdale Ave., had been scheduled to deliver the launchers in a tractor-trailer to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, his employer told police. The worker for Scalea's Airport Service never did, however.
The tractor, minus the trailer, was found Sunday morning parked outside the home of Rhodes' sister, police say.
Sunday afternoon, Rhodes led police on a high-speed chase through five counties, before getting out of his car at a Frederick truck stop and shooting himself in the head with a .22-caliber handgun, police say.
Police found the handgun, four other firearms and dozens of rounds of ammunition inside his car. Police say Rhodes fired at them during the chase.