Police kill man who took 8-year-old girl hostage

April 15, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

A police marksman fatally shot a man yesterday after he took an 8-year-old girl hostage and repeatedly put a gun to her head during a three-hour standoff in East Baltimore, authorities said.

The man had burst into the basement of a rowhouse in the 600 block of N. Luzerne Ave. about 12:30 p.m., with police in pursuit, and grabbed the child. The man also shot at officers through a side window.

Rodney Six, who works at M&L repair shop on Monument Street, said he watched the man come out of the house several times. "He was clutching the girl in front of him, and he put the pistol to her head," he said.

About 3:30 p.m., Col. Leon Tomlin, chief of the Neighborhood Patrol Bureau, determined that negotiations had broken down after an officer heard the man threaten the child's life. He gave sharpshooters the green light to fire on the man if they could get a clear shot without putting the girl in danger.

Minutes later, the suspect stepped onto the front marble stoop, waving a Colt .45 caliber semiautomatic handgun. An unidentified officer on a rooftop across the street shot the man once in the chest.

"He fell backward, and the gun fell out of his hand," Mr. Six said. The girl then ran from the house and was picked up by police officers who rushed to the stoop.

"The marksman had a clear shot and was able to hit the target without putting the child in any danger," said Officer Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman.

Robert Anthony Gilliam Jr., 19, of the 400 block of S. Bentalou St., was taken by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:54 p.m. The girl was not harmed, but her mother, Delores Bates, 37, -- apparently overcome by shock -- was taken to Hopkins for observation.

"We will use any amount of time possible to bring an incident to a successful and safe conclusion," Officer Weinhold said. "In this situation, the girl's safety was in extreme jeopardy. The officer was ordered to take a shot to protect the life of the hostage."

The incident began about 12:30 p.m. when two plainclothes officers, Bryan Donaughe, 27, and Adam Kirhagis, 22, of the Southeastern District, tried to question a man in the 600 block of N. Glover St. The man ran into the New Jack City Bar, where the officers tried to handcuff him and the three got into a scuffle.

Police said both officers were bitten in the arm, and the man pulled a handgun from his left pants leg and tried to aim it at the chest of one of the officers. When an officer blocked his arm, the man ran out of the bar with handcuffs attached to one of his wrists.

Police chased him, and Officer Weinhold said he burst into a basement door of the Luzerne Street house. Ms. Bates and her young son, Neika, 9, escaped, but not the 8-year-old girl. She was identified as Shamirra Bates.

Officers called for the Police Department's Quick Response Team, which surrounded the house and at one point, gave the suspect a telephone so hostage negotiators could try to talk him out.

Officer Weinhold said the suspect came out of the house several times holding the hostage with one hand and the gun in the other.

About 3:30 p.m., police said communications broke down, and the man shot out of a first-floor side window, apparently because he felt officers were getting too close.

In addition, Officer Weinhold said a member of the Quick Response Team, who was hiding by a side window, saw the man point the gun at the child and heard him "state that he was going to kill her."

The same officer also saw the man smoke what police believe to be crack cocaine during the standoff, Officer Weinhold said.

"He became extremely agitated and [commanders] felt his violence level was escalating," Officer Weinhold said.

Police used what Officer Weinhold described as a "diversion technique" to lure the suspect away from the child to give the marksman a clear shot. He would not elaborate.

Relatives of Mr. Gilliam, who watched the events, erupted in anger after the police officer's shot echoed through the neighborhood.

"They just killed my son," screamed Robert Gilliam Sr. Later, he told reporters that he didn't know why his son ran from the police or went into the rowhouse. "I wasn't there," he said.

Officer Weinhold said investigators found small bags of suspected cocaine and a pipe on the kitchen table. He also said Mr. Gilliam was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant for not appearing in court on a 1994 drug charge.

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