Shooting Suspect Bought Gun Via Classified Ad

January 29, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

Arthur Donald Copeland found just what he wanted in the classifieds.

By purchasing the .45-caliber handgun through a newspaper ad, Copeland, who police say allegedly shot his wife outside Marley Station mall Jan. 17, was exempted from a law requiring gun buyers to wait seven days before receiving their weapon.

After posting $100,000 bond on a charge of assault with intent tomurder, Copeland checked himself into a private medical facility fortreatment of depression and other problems, his attorney said yesterday.

Timothy Murnane said his client has no previous criminal record and called the Jan. 17 shooting a tragedy.

"We are exploring every avenue of defense," Murnane said. "He's had 57 immaculate years. My opinion at this point is that it was clearly a psychotic break."

Mary Maxine Copeland, 59, was shot once in the side and once in thehead and lost an eye. She was released Friday from Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

County police detective Donald Hauf said Copeland, 57, bought the gun from a Baltimore man who advertised in the The Sun classifieds on Jan. 12. That exempted Copeland from the waiting period, state police spokesman Chuck Jackson said.

"He bought the gun the same day the ad was in the paper," Hauf said. "He paid in cash and didn't haggle over the price."

The gun's seller would not comment on the transaction.

Hauf said the gun was not found during a search of the couple's home in the 1200 block of Rock Hill Road in Pasadena.

"I made several phone calls, calling all ads for guns," Hauf said, "before I came across one that I thought was the right one."

Hauf said he showed the seller a photo lineup, and the seller picked out Copeland as the man who paid $325 in cash for his gun.

The .45-caliber semiautomatic handguns are popular among World War I and II veterans and are often used in shooting competitions, said Jerry Rogers, manager of Bart's Sports World in Pasadena.

The gun holds sevenrounds. Pulling the slide once loads the first bullet into the chamber. From there, the the rest are loaded automatically, Rogers said.

Mary Copeland was shot on her 59th birthday. Her husband had asked her to follow him to the mall, Hauf said, before meeting two other couples for dinner at a Pasadena restaurant.

"He got into her car and said he had a present for her," Hauf said. "He told her to close her eyes. Then she felt something cold against her head and the only thing she heard was a click."

For some reason, Hauf said, the gun did not go off. Mary Copeland opened her eyes and saw the gun.

"Before she could get out of the car, he fired again and hit her in the side," Hauf said.

That shot went in her side and passed through her body. Copeland fired again, and the bullet hit her in the head, Hauf said.

Mary Copeland got out of the car and ran, Hauf said. The gunman followed her 183 feet across the parking lot, until she crawled underneath a car. He then got into his pickup and drove off.

Mary Copeland identified her attacker to police, and officers went to the couple's home and waited. They caught him a short time later leaving the house.

Hauf said the motive for the shooting could be financial.

"He stood to gain a substantial amount of money," Hauf said of Arthur Copeland, if his wife was dead.

But Murnane said Arthur Copeland could have been contemplating suicide.

The lawyer said Copeland had a "substantial amount of insurance" on his own life, and his children were the beneficiaries of those policies.

On the day of the shooting, Copeland was laid off from his job as a systems analyst at a Silver Spring company. He held that top-security position for 25 years.

Murnane said Copeland had never displayed any violent characteristics toward his family.

"He kept a lot of things bottled up inside of him," Murnane said. "He wasn't expressive."

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