County police have captured a 20-year-old fugitive they say allegedly robbed 14 businesses and stole four cars since his September escapefrom armed guards in front of District Court.
Anthony James Freeland was stopped about 9 p.m. Sunday on Halloway Road in Glen Burnie. He was driving a stolen Chevrolet Spectrum with Virginia license plates and had a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun, police said.
He was being held without bond yesterday at the county detention center.
Freeland was undone by the glare of publicity.
On Oct. 8, he was stopped by officers in Freetown while driving a stolen Mazda RX-7, said police spokesman Officer V. Richard Molloy.
Freeland was released because he gave officers a false name and the car had not been reported stolen yet, said Sgt. George Johnson, who heads the robbery squad.
Friday, detectives gave Freeland's picture to reporters and, throughout the weekend, police were bombarded by reports of his whereabouts.
About 12:30 p.m. Sunday, police said, Freeland walked into the Radio Shack in the 500 block of Ritchie Highway and talked to the clerk about buying a television and a videocassette recorder. He left the store and returned about 4 p.m, police said, then allegedly took out a pistol and demanded cash along with the television and VCR. The clerk complied.
Between Radio Shack visits, police say, Freeland may have stopped for food at the McDonald's on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Glen Burnie. By the time officers got the tip and arrived at the restaurant, their suspect was gone.
Shortly after the Radio Shack holdup, detectives got tips that Freeland was in Freetown.
Officers stopped a man who looked like Freeland driving ablack Monte Carlo. The suspect ran, and officers chased and caught him.
Officers discovered they had the wrong man when they got to the Northern District station, Johnson said.
Detectives finally got their break when an anonymous caller told them that Freeland was driving around in the Marley area in a stolen gray Chevrolet Spectrum.
Investigators said Freeland confessed to robbing 13 businesses in the county and one in Howard County since Sept. 30, including the Friday robbery of the Holiday Inn on Fort Meade Road and the attempted robbery of the Sierra Club nightclub on Saturday.
He also confessed to three robberies last year in the county and to stealing four cars since he escaped, police say.
On Sept. 3, Freeland escaped from Wachenhut Security guards as he was being taken from the county detention center to District Court for trial on a theft charge. With a smuggled handcuff key, he unlocked his leg irons and handcuffs and bolted from the paddy wagon with another man, who was recaptured.
Freelandfaces his previous theft charges, escape and the armed robbery charges.
Although Freeland's arrest may close several cases for police,armed robberies in the county are at an all-time high. County policedetectives have handled 340 cases so far this year, compared with 330 for all of last year.
Robberies in Annapolis have also increased; from January to September this year, there have been 112 robberies,compared with 77 for the same period last year.
Johnson said thatalthough the robbery squad has closed about 40 percent of its cases,he expects the increase to continue the rest of the year.
"The upcoming holidays, the downturn in the economy, the drug problem and all the layoffs we have had in the area all play a part in that," he said.
Several of the robberies have been "street rips" at automatic teller machines, and Johnson recommends taking extra precautions whenwithdrawing money from those machines.
"It's a crime of opportunity," he said. "People should do more of their transactions during theday, and even take extra trips around the building to make sure there are not any suspicious people hanging around. Take a little time tocheck things out."
Johnson said police have stepped up their uniformed patrols, but calls for service have increased and officers can do only so much.