Pawnshop employee kills holdup man Locked door barred robber's escape from Jessup store

'A dumb place to rob'

No one else hurt

homicide is third of year in county

November 14, 1995|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,SUN STAFF

An armed man was shot and killed by an employee at a Jessup pawnshop yesterday after he robbed the store but was prevented from leaving by a locked door, Howard County police said.

As of last night, police had not identified the white male they found dead inside the Jessup Gold and Silver Exchange in the 7800 block of Old Jessup Road. The state medical examiner's office is expected to release a preliminary autopsy report today.

A female customer, 31, and two male pawnshop employees -- a 22-year-old and the 58-year-old, who police said acknowledged shooting the suspect -- were not injured. Their names were withheld yesterday while police questioned them at headquarters in Ellicott City, Sgt. Steve Keller, police spokesman.

Police will meet with the Howard County state's attorney after the investigation is complete to determine if any charges should be lodged in the shooting.

"It's a shame anything like this would happen," said Hugh Stone, the pawnshop owner, who was not in the store at the time of the shooting and who said his store had never been robbed in its seven years.

The shop's electrically operated door -- which admits customers through a lock system remotely controlled by the store employees -- was put in place to prevent such robberies, he said.

"We try to be security conscious," Mr. Stone said. "We've had some close calls, but we avoided them before they happened."

Police said the younger employee was working at a storage area behind the shop shortly after noon when an armed man wearing white gloves, dark overalls and an orange ski mask forced him inside and up a stairwell to the shop.

The suspect then pointed a handgun at the younger man, an older employee and a customer, taking cash and an unloaded 9 mm handgun. The gunman then ran about six feet to the front door but could not get out because the electric door was still locked.

The suspect then turned toward those in the store, police said, at which point the older employee fired one shot from a 9 mm handgun kept at the store for protection. The robber fell backward, dying moments later, police said.

When police arrived, the dead man was on his back, and a blue plastic bag filled with cash rested near his head. The gun that police said he held lay in the middle of the floor.

Police said the man had two loaded handguns -- the one he pointed at those in the shop and another in a shoulder holster -- in addition to the handgun stolen from the shop.

Last night, police were checking the ownership of a truck found nearby with keys in its ignition and registered to a Prince George's County man.

Yesterday's incident was the third homicide recorded in Howard this year, said Sergeant Keller. Police did not recall any similar instance of a suspect being shot by a civilian during a robbery in recent years.

Marna McLendon, Howard County, state's attorney, said police and prosecutors follow a standard routine in deciding if charges should be placed in such cases.

"When there's a homicide, whether or not it's justified depends on the self-defense issue," she said. "It depends whether or not somebody thought they were in danger."

The pawnshop is near the Maryland Wholesale Food Center, in an area of ranch homes and businesses close to the Anne Arundel County line. It buys and sells jewelry, tools, instruments, guns and other items.

"It's terrible," said Phil Burleson, of Columbia, who had come to the shop to buy an acoustic guitar. "But that's what you get for robbing the place."

Several nearby residents who are friends of the employees visited the crime scene to see if they were injured.

"That's a dumb place to rob," said Ron Meyers, of Jessup. "Everybody knows they have guns in there."

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