Peggy Gunter was working the 3 p.m.-to-11 p.m. shift at the Holiday Inn in Pikesville Feb. 28 when a man dressed in a long, brown leather coat and carrying a briefcase approached the front desk.
After asking the price of a room, the man suddenly pulled a handgun from the briefcase, Gunter testified yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court.
"He jumped over the counter and grabbed me by the throat," Gunter told the jury. "He put the gun to my head. He said, 'You have 10 seconds to get someone to open the safe or you're dead.' "
Gunter, who spoke in a quavering voice, was the first witness in the state's case against Tony Maurice Bedford, allegedly one of the leaders of the so-called shotgun bandits who terrorized the city and county last fall and winter.
The jury trial was to continue today before Judge James T. Smith Jr.
Bedford, 19, who goes by the name Sadiq Abdullah Muhammed, is on trial, charged in the Feb. 28 robbery of the Holiday Inn, in which an assistant manager was shot and injured.
He is accused of shooting Robert McNeil, an assistant manager, who also is expected to testify. McNeil was flown to the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore, where he underwent four to five hours of surgery. He has since recovered.
Bedford is charged with armed robbery, attempted murder, assault and a handgun violation.
He also has been charged, but not yet tried, in 12 other armed robberies in the city and county, including the March 7 daylight robbery of the State Employees Credit Union in Towson.
Yesterday, Gunter described the Holiday Inn robbery, which began about 5:30 p.m., and pointed out Bedford as the man who grabbed her by the throat and who later shot McNeil once in the abdomen.
McNeil and John MacLennan, another assistant manager, were in a back room but returned to the front counter with Bedford and Gunter, where MacLennan attempted to open the safe.
By this time, Gunter said, she noticed that another man dressed in a long jacket and armed with a shotgun had stationed himself by the front door. He was ordering people entering the hotel to sit in the lobby.
A third robber appeared and stood by as Bedford counted down from 10 and shouted threats. "He kept counting down," Gunter said.
" 'We mean business.' 'You're all going to die.' 'She's going to be the first to go, if anybody goes,' " Gunter continued, quoting Bedford.
After MacLennan and McNeil failed to open the safe, Bedford himself tried unsuccessfully to unlock the combination lock, Gunter said.
Bedford said, " 'That's it. I've had enough.' " Then he vaulted over the counter and moved closer to the exit, Gunter said, then vaulted back over the counter, took money from the cash register, turned and fired once, wounding McNeil.
At one point during the ordeal, Gunter said, she was forced to kneel on the floor. "I was down on my knees with the gun to my head and I just said, 'Please, Lord, don't let them kill me. I have two children.'"
She said one of the robbers told her to shut up.
Although Gunter's direct testimony lasted 30 minutes, the cross-examination by Bedford's public defender, Jerome A. Bivens, lasted more than an hour.
Bivens peppered her with questions about what she did at work that day before and during the robbery.
He asked her about the weather, who was working that day, how many guests were in the hotel, how many people had checked in before the robbery and how many people had checked out.
Which hand did the defendant hold the gun with, Bivens asked.
"I don't remember," Gunter replied.