Gunman injures merchant Suspect caught after attack by Rottweiler

April 16, 1993|By Michael James and Roger Twigg | Michael James and Roger Twigg,Staff Writers

A robber shot and critically wounded a West Baltimore liquor store owner yesterday, taking more than $30,000, but police arrested him minutes later after he ran through a back yard and was mauled by a Rottweiler named Psycho.

The shooting occurred about 12:30 p.m. when three men, one armed with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun, confronted Nelson Saul Hoffman, 43, as he got out of his car in front of Fox's Cut-Rate Liquors in the 1300 block of N. Fulton Ave.

Mr. Hoffman, a Mount Washington resident, was listed in critical condition last night at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Police recovered stacks of $100 and $50 bills from a yard in the 1000 block of N. Mount St. and found a suspect inside the house, bleeding profusely from several dog bites to the legs.

"He came crashing through the dining room window, so I locked the door so he couldn't get out," said Paula Rawlings, 13, who lives there. "He didn't want to go back out through the window because Psycho was waiting and would have killed him."

Mr. Hoffman, who owns the liquor store, had just returned from the bank with money when he was held up, police said. The gunman took the cash and then fired a single shot, striking Mr. Hoffman in the right-shoulder area, police said.

As Mr. Hoffman fell to the ground, he pulled out a .38-caliber handgun and fired two shots at the holdup men, although it is unknown if he hit any of them, said Lt. Odis L. Sistrunk of the Western District.

Police converged on the scene as the three robbers fled in different directions, with the gunman discarding the shotgun as he ran. He reportedly ran across the rear parking lot of the Western District police station, where several officers began chasing him on foot, police said.

The fleeing man tried unsuccessfully to enter several houses to avoid the pursuing officers before he hopped a fence into Psycho's yard. The adult male dog lives in the back yard with his mother, Tammy, who did not take part in the attack.

Psycho was in his doghouse when the gunman tried to throw the stolen bundle of cash inside, said Jean Rawlings, Paula's mother.

"He tried to throw the money in the doghouse. . . . Psycho made like a pit bull and grabbed his leg and started biting him up real bad," Ms. Rawlings said.

With money flying in a trail behind him, the injured man made a desperate run toward the house and jumped through the dining room window.

Paula, who has raised Psycho since he was a puppy, said she immediately ran to the dining-room door, slammed it shut and locked it. Her mother, who wasn't in the house at the time, has the only key to the door, she said.

"He was trapped in there and had no place to run, except back to the dog," Paula said. "I guess he figured he'd better stay inside and take his chances with the police."

Paula's brother, David Abrahams, 11, was also in the house but stayed in an upstairs bedroom.

Paula ran out of the front door where a police officer on horseback was searching for the suspect. She flagged him down, yelling, "He's in here, He's in here," police said.

The officer dismounted, and he and several other officers who were nearby ran into the house and broke down the dining-room door. The injured man surrendered without any hesitation, police said.

Stacks of bills wrapped in rubber bands were found strewn about the back yard. It appears that most or all of the money was recovered, police said.

The suspect was treated at University Hospital Medical Center and released and was being questioned at the city homicide unit last night. Charges are pending, said police, who are seeking two other suspects.

Both Paula and her mother said Psycho has been a good watchdog for the family, but has always been friendly toward children.

"If you bother him, though, or he thinks you're causing trouble, watch out," Ms. Rawlings said. "If any other burglars try to come through here, Psycho and Tammy will be waiting for them."

In March 1973, Harry Hoffman -- the uncle of the shooting victim in yesterday's incident -- died after being shot in a robbery at the same liquor store. He was shot in the back after he struggled with a gunman.

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