11 Glen Burnie bank hostages safe Police shoot ex-mental patient to end nearly four-hour ordeal

September 15, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

A former mental hospital patient held 11 people hostage a knifepoint inside a Glen Burnie bank yesterday before he was shot and wounded by a police officer, ending a nearly four-hour standoff.

Darrell T. Cornish, 26, a client of Omni House, a rehabilitation home for the mentally ill, was taken by ambulance to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at University Medical Center. He was reported in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. No one else was hurt in the ordeal at the Bank of Glen Burnie in the 100 block of Crain Highway South.

Mr. Cornish, who was armed with a small kitchen knife, was shot once by a member of the Anne Arundel County police tactical squad about 12:40 p.m. as he held two hostages in the bank vault. He had already released nine hostages in about four hours of negotiations with police.

Mr. Cornish was shot when he turned in a "threatening manner" toward the vault where he held the hostages, said Officer Terry Robey, a police spokeswoman. Officer Robey said the officers inside the bank -- wearing dark blue fatigues and helmets, and carrying body shields -- told Mr. Cornish to "freeze" but he refused, and one of them fired a single shot. She would not release the officer's name.

"Apparently Mr. Cornish became impatient," said Anne Arundel County police Cpl. William Collier, the chief negotiator. "And he came out of the vault and saw additional police and turned to go back into the vault . . . We had given him the impression that we [the negotiators] were the only ones in the bank."

He said Mr. Cornish seemed to have no clear motive for taking the hostages and had made about nine demands, including requests for coffee, water, cigarettes and plane tickets to


"We got him the coffee and cigarettes and water," Corporal Collier said, adding that he had two plane tickets to California in his hand that he planned on showing Mr. Cornish in an effort to get the final two hostages released.

"He wanted to fly with me or another officer," Corporal Collier said.

Joan Heffner said her daughter-in-law, Donna Heffner, is a bank employee and was one of the first hostages to be released. "It's the worst thing that anyone could imagine," she said. "I worried that she would never come out of there."

Joan Heffner said her daughter-in-law was upset and worried about the remaining hostages in the bank.

"Apparently, he was saying some very perverted things to them and asking the ladies to pull up their dresses," she said.

According to witnesses, Mr. Cornish was outside the bank as customers were lining up at the door waiting for the bank to open.

Mr. Cornish walked into the bank with several customers when it opened at 9 a.m. Once inside the bank, he pulled out a kitchen knife, witnesses said.

"He had a knife and was yelling, 'Back it up, back it up,' " said bank customer Maria Pregent, 37. "I went through the back office. I was just trying to find a place to hide. All I could think about was my children in school."

Mr. Cornish jumped over the counter and grabbed a teller by the neck before demanding to know where the vault was, witnesses said.

"He told the tellers not to press the alarm," said Nancy Kim, another customer. "He looked desperate."

Mrs. Pregent said she slipped out the bank's back door. Meanwhile, Ms. Kim had gone out the front door and flagged a passing police officer.

"I told the officer that the bank was being robbed," Ms. Kim said.

Officer Robey said the officer called for assistance. Police surrounded the bank shortly after 9 a.m. When officers entered the bank, Mr. Cornish rounded up 11 bank employees and customers, and herded them into the vault.

"At times he would bring the hostages to the front of the vault so we could see them," Corporal Collier said. He added that Mr. Cornish's demeanor would change from loud and demanding to calm and reasonable.

By 10:15 a.m., Mr. Cornish had released seven hostages. He released two others a few minutes later.

Mr. Cornish will be charged with attempted armed robbery and false imprisonment, Officer Robey said. The officer who shot him will be placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, she said.

Mr. Cornish, who has a lengthy history of mental illness, had been discharged June 30 from Crownsville State Hospital after staff members there deemed him to be no danger to himself or others. He was placed in the care of Omni House in Glen Burnie under the condition that he continue outpatient psychiatric treatment and that he continue taking anti-psychotic medication. had been involved in a similar incident in 1984, court records show.

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