A 41-year-old man suspected in the holdups of 29 businesses -- most in downtown Baltimore -- was arrested yesterday after he held police at bay by putting a gun to his head while cornered in an alley off West Fayette Street.
Police suspect that Edward Oliver Mason Jr. has been "on a one-man commercial armed robbery crime spree" since November, said Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman.
Mr. Mason, who has no fixed address, is suspected of targeting book stores, pharmacies, shoe outlets, fast-food restaurants and flower shops, police said. He is charged with 29 counts of commercial armed robbery.
Police caught up with the suspect about 11:20 p.m. Thursday, when they received a report of an armed robbery at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the 100 block of N. Howard St.
One officer saw a man run west on Fayette Street, turn into Diamond Alley, then try to hide in the back yard of a vacant rowhouse.
Police surrounded the yard, and Agent Weinhold said the suspect put a .32 caliber handgun to his head and "threatened to take his own life."
Hostage negotiators were called and talked the man into surrendering about 12:30 a.m. Friday, Agent Weinhold said.
After interviewing Mr. Mason, police charged him in the armed robberies, 20 of which occurred in downtown Baltimore and nine in Southwest Baltimore. Police said Baltimore County authorities expect to charge him in a robbery there. He also is a suspect in other robberies, Agent Weinhold said.
Police said the man usually went into a business, threatened a clerk with a gun and stole money. Sometimes he handed the clerk a note implying that he was armed.
Businesses the suspect is charged with robbing include Louie's Book Store Cafe on North Charles Street, Kinko's on North Charles Street, The Dark Room on Guilford Avenue and Blockbuster Video on Frederick Avenue.