Bootprints kept police on suspect's heels

March 04, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

For five miles, three determined Anne Arundel County police officers trudged through driving rain, following a trail of distinctive bootprints across slush-filled backyards and alleys around Brooklyn Park.

They went back and forth across the city line so often they lost count Wednesday night, until the trail finally led to a house in Baltimore where they arrested a man suspected of breaking into 17 houses in northern Anne Arundel County.

Police arrested Phillip Douglas Scott, 29, of the 800 block of Clintwood St. in a house on Herdon Court in the Brooklyn section of Baltimore. He was charged with four counts of burglary.

Mr. Scott was being held yesterday at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center in lieu of $10,000 bail. He is scheduled for another bail hearing in District Court today.

"We were never more than 10 minutes behind the suspect," said Sgt. William F. Rothenbecker, head of the investigation.

The search began after an attempted break-in on Magie Street about 7:15 p.m.

Along the way, the officers also found another house that had been burglarized and stopped to settle a fight between a city woman and her boyfriend. Officer Anthony Mills -- wearing his full dress uniform because he was to receive an award later that night -- went sliding down a hill in the slop.

"I've been frustrated trying to get this guy," said Detective Eric Burns. "Once I got the track, I didn't want to stop. And after we discovered the second break-in, that fired us up even more. At one point, the rain was coming down so hard we could hardly see. Our feet were numb, and our ears were frozen."

Because of the weather, police had considered calling off the nine-man squad that had been staking out the neighborhood for two weeks, said Capt. Gary Barr, Northern District commander. "I'm glad we didn't," he said.

Police were looking for a man who broke windows to get into the houses, took only small items such as wallets, jewelry and toiletries and wore boots with prints distinguished by two large circles in the heels, Sergeant Rothenbecker said

"For two weeks, we were pulling up on suspicious suspects and checking their shoes," Captain Barr said.

Police got their break about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday when Cpl. John Ogle became suspicious when he saw in his rear-view mirror a man walking down Magie Street through the driving rain.

Just as Corporal Ogle turned his unmarked cruiser around to check on the man, he heard a call on the radio. Someone trying to break into a home on Magie Street had been thwarted by the screams of a resident.

By the time Corporal Ogle got to the house, the man had disappeared, leaving only the telltale bootprints behind. Eight other officers and a police dog quickly arrived at the home.

When the police dog could not pick up the scent because of the rain and wind, Detectives Burns and Bart Shilow and Officer Mills followed the trail of prints.

Sergeant Rothenbecker followed in his cruiser.

The trail wound down numerous streets, the sergeant said, ending several times at plowed streets, driveways and fences. The officers then split up to find it again, they said.

"You could tell the way he was moving that he knew he was being followed," Sergeant Rothenbecker said. "He would go into a back yard, across a street and the tracks would end, then pick up again a short distance away."

An hour later, the officers followed the tracks down Wasena Avenue to Cross Street, then to the basement door of a home in the 5100 block of Fourth St. that had been broken down.

The officers, who found a pillowcase containing $40 in change, toothpaste and mouthwash on the front lawn, figured the man must have seen them coming and fled out the front door.

Back on the trail, officers said, they followed the tracks up Church Street and into the city, where they teamed up with several Baltimore officers. About 9:15 p.m., the trail finally led to the house in the 900 block of Herdon Court.

Detective Shilow said there was one bootprint on the back stoop. "Then I knew it was over," he said.

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