Baltimore police said yesterday that it will take an autopsy to determine why a 29-year-old robbery suspect -- carrying a fake handgun -- died after an officer wounded him in the shoulder while trying to escape.
Rodney A. Willis of the 700 block of East 21st Street died on the way to Francis Scott Key Medical Center shortly after an early morning robbery in Northeast Baltimore, said Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman.
Mr. Willis walked to an ambulance after he was shot, but he suffered cardiac arrest en route to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said. Witnesses said the suspect appeared to be under the influence of drugs.
Police gave the following account of yesterday's robbery and shooting:
At 6:10 a.m., a man carrying what appeared to be a silver-plated handgun walked into the Dash In Food Store in the 6100 block of Moravia Park Drive.
Without saying a word, he walked past the 64-year-old store manager, William Nunez, and approached another employee, Kofi Mankwa, to demand money.
Mr. Nunez walked outside, called the police on a pay telephone, then flagged down a passing patrol car.
After the gunman and employee failed to open the cash register, the suspect ran out the front door toward an apartment complex in the 6000 block of Moravia Park Drive.
Officer Kenneth L. Lucas, 43, of the Northeastern Police District, got a 12-gauge shotgun and chased the suspect into one of the apartment buildings.
The man banged on the door of a second-floor apartment as the officer tried to persuade him to lay down his weapon. A woman who lived there, Deborah Bean, 30, became so frightened that she jumped from her balcony, suffering a cut on her chin and a broken left ankle.
When the suspect leaned over the second-floor banister and pointed his handgun at Officer Lucas, who was standing on the first floor, the 21-year veteran officer fired his shotgun, knocking out the banister and wounding the suspect, Mr. Hill said.
The police spokesman said two pellets hit the man in the right shoulder. He was taken into custody and a steel replica of a handgun was recovered along with an empty vial with suspected cocaine residue and two vials of suspected cocaine.
Mr. Hill said Officer Lucas remained on duty.