Baynesville motel guard fatally shot trying to thwart robber

May 19, 1992|By Kris Antonelli and Michael James | Kris Antonelli and Michael James,Staff Writers

A gunman shot and killed a moonlighting security guard at the Ramada Inn in Baynesville yesterday after the guard attempted to draw his gun to thwart a robbery, Baltimore County police said.

The security officer, John Harold Bowling, 43, died after being shot twice in the chest. Police said last night that a suspect had not been identified and leads were being sought.

Witnesses told police that the gunman was a black male wearing a cap and a green or blue jogging suit.

Mr. Bowling went to the motel lobby door at 12:05 a.m. and saw the man waiting to be admitted.

As is standard procedure, Mr. Bowling opened the door for the man, believing he was a customer, police said.

"They usually keep the door locked at night to deter robbers," said police spokesman E. Jay Miller. "When the man started pulling out his gun, [Mr. Bowling] apparently went for his own, and he was shot."

After firing the shots, the gunman immediately fled from the motel, located in the 8700 block of Loch Raven Blvd. Police said they have no leads on the man's identity.

Mr. Bowling was a bachelor who lived with his uncle in the 1400 block of Mirable Way in Pasadena.

He was working part time at the motel to supplement his full-time job at Severna Park Mall, where he worked mostly as a maintenance worker and part of the time as a security guard.

The slaying is the second in 3 1/2 years at the motel, which until April 1 was a Holiday Inn.

On Oct. 21, 1988, Jeffrey A. White, 25, a desk clerk from Cockeysville, was stabbed to death as he tried to crawl to safety behind a front desk during an apparent robbery.

Betty Blaize, the assistant general manager of the motel and who was also employed at the Holiday Inn at the time of the first murder, said Mr. Bowling had been slain by a robber hoping to make a quick score.

"He just shot him when he opened the door. He was probably scared when he saw [Mr. Bowling's] gun," she said, adding: "It's pretty typical; robberies in the motel business happen every day. Robberies are an occupational hazard. We have to make a living, so we have to live with it. But it's awful for us."

Ms. Blaize said she is a 16-year veteran of the motel industry.

She described Mr. Bowling as a likable, easygoing man who had made good friends with the 30 or so employees at the motel.

His job involved patrolling the property and opening the door at night for customers, Ms. Blaize said.

Fran Poole, a spokeswoman for Ramada Inn's headquarters in New Jersey, said security guidelines at Ramada motels vary depending on individual owner's wishes.

But it is common for security officials at motels to lock the doors at night and to keep a close watch, she said.

Mr. Bowling, a graduate of Severna Park High School, had been working the security job at the motel for more than one year, said his uncle, Edward Houck, 76. He worked the midnight shift several days a week, sometimes as many as seven.

"He always got paid pretty good for those jobs," Mr. Houck said.

Mr. Bowling worked full time at Severna Park Mall and would leave that job around 9:30 or 10:30 p.m. and go to his part-time job at the motel, said Howard Dixon, Mr. Bowling's supervisor at the mall.

Sunday was his day off at the mall.

"He was a hard and conscientious worker," Mr. Dixon said. "He would do anybody a favor."

The part-time security job supplemented Mr. Bowling's income and he used it to help his uncle.

"The way things are today with hard times," said Mr. Dixon. "He needed the money.

Mr. Houck, a retired Baltimore City worker, said his nephew helped him with the payments on their Woodland Beach home and other bills.

Before working at Severna Park Mall, Mr. Bowling worked as a correctional officer at Prince George's and Howard County detention centers.

He served three years in the Army and worked as a military police officer, his uncle said.

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