BALTIMORE -- A deliveryman for a south Baltimore doughnut company was dragged to his death last night after a hijacker stole his truck outside a restaurant on East Patapsco Avenue.
The hijacker escaped when the van went out of control several blocks away in the 3900 block of Fairhaven St. in Curtis Bay and struck two parked cars.
Pronounced dead was Alonzo Coats, 64, of the 3300 block of E. Monument St. Mr. Coats was dragged more than 200 feet while stuck under the vehicle.
Sgt. O.B. McCarter of the Southern District said Mr. Coats, a deliveryman for Fogler's Donuts in the 800 block of E. Patapsco Ave., was delivering doughnuts to the Central restaurant in the 900 block of E. Patapsco Ave. around 11:50 p.m. yesterday when an unidentified man entered the van while it was parked out front.
Sergeant McCarter said it was Mr. Coats' habit to keep the vehicle's en
gine running and that the 24-hour restaurant was the first of many stops last night.
The restaurant is one block from the doughnut company.
"He'd be in and out of the restaurant in less than five minutes," Sergeant McCarter said, "and always kept the engine running."
After Mr. Coats left the restaurant and was walking in front of the van, the man sitting behind the wheel put the vehicle in gear and drove off.
Witnesses told police they weren't sure if the man saw Mr. Coats passing in front of the van or if Mr. Coats knew that someone had gotten into his van and was about to drive away as he approached.
Sergeant McCarter said when the van moved forward, Mr. Coats was knocked to the pavement and that his body became lodged under the vehicle.
He said the space between the van's under-carriage and the pavement was about 15 inches.
"He was a fairly large man," said Sgt. McCarter, "and it was easy for him to become wedged under the van as it sped off down Patapsco Avenue.
"We really don't know if the hijacker knew he was under the van," he said.
Sergeant McCarter said the delivery van traveled about 10 car lengths east on E. Patapsco Avenue, causing Mr. Coats' body to be tumbled over several times before the van's wheels rolled over him as his body was thrown out onto the street.
He compared the incident to that of Pam Basu, the 34-year-old Laurel woman who died while being dragged nearly two miles down a Howard County road on Sept. 8 by two men who stole her car as she was taking her daughter to a pre-school.
He said Mr. Coats' heavy coat was nearly ripped off his body.
Sergeant McCarter said the van continued several blocks down East Patapsco Avenue before turning right onto Fairhaven Avenue.
At the intersection of the 1500 block of Popland Street, the man lost control of the bakery van and crashed into two parked cars.
Apparently uninjured, the man jumped out of the van and escaped.
He was described as a white man with shoulder-length hair.
Sergeant McCarter said the hijacker intended to steal money but that Mr. Coats didn't collect money from his customers and never kept any cash in the van.
He said the victim's wallet is missing and that it may have been torn to shreds while the man was being dragged under the van.
Steven Fogler, owner of the doughnut firm, described Mr. Coats as a man who cared for others before himself.
l "At the end of his shift and on his own time," Mr. Fogler said, "he would take doughnuts, other baked goods he didn't sell to his customers and leftovers from the bakery and deliver them to needy families and shelters all over the city."