Suspect charged in shooting at Rotunda Giant Two others still at large

cashier in serious condition

March 30, 1996|By Peter Hermann and Marcia Myers | Peter Hermann and Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

A convicted drug dealer was charged yesterday with shooting a cashier Thursday night in a crowded Giant supermarket at the Rotunda, a shocking attack that has prompted officials to double security at the popular shopping center.

Lawrence Haskins III, 34, who police had been seeking for violating the terms of his probation, was arrested near the store shortly after the holdup attempt after being identified by Giant employees.

Police were seeking two other men in connection with the 7: 45 p.m. shooting that occurred in cashier line No. 2 as horrified customers watched and dove for cover to escape the gunfire. Cashier Mary Haines, 30, was hit three times, in the shoulder, arm and neck. She was listed in serious condition yesterday at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

The North Baltimore store reopened yesterday amid mixed reactions from customers and employees, many shaken and dismayed that a visit to a grocery store -- one serving upscale Roland Park -- could end in bloodshed.

"They should have a guard out here -- a lot of other Giants have 24-hour security," said Chris Turner, 19, a cashier who has worked at the store for three years and was visiting the store yesterday morning. "I'm seriously thinking about not coming in tonight."

Giant managers increased security at the store yesterday morning from two to four uniformed security guards at night. A counselor also was available to talk with workers.

"We wanted to assure the staff there that we care very much about them and we will be increasing security, as occurred this morning," said Barry Scher, vice president of public affairs at Giant headquarters in Landover.

Baltimore Police Lt. James Henderson, of the Northern District, said that most of the crime in the area is theft from cars.

Mr. Scher said that aside from shoplifting, the only more serious offense at the store in the 700 block of W. 41st. St. was a robbery in 1992, when a robber threatened a cashier with a gun and took money from the till. No one was injured.

Customers and police described the shooting scene as chaotic, with customers diving to the floor and some workers hiding in a back room meat locker. Police said the gunman posed as a customer making a purchase when he threatened Ms. Haines with a gun and demanded that she open the cash drawer.

Witnesses said Ms. Haines appeared to be confused at the gunman's frantic demands and backed away from the drawer. They said the man opened fire and the three men ran out the front doors and into the parking lot.

The man who was caught, Mr. Haskins, was charged with assault with intent to murder. Police said they believe him to be the shooter. Court records show that he was convicted of intending to distribute cocaine in September 1994 and was sentenced to three years in prison. The sentence was modified in August 1995 to five years of probation. As a condition of his release, a judge ordered Mr. Haskins to enter a monthlong drug treatment program. Records show that he signed up, but did not attend the sessions.

A judge issued an arrest warrant on Sept. 15. Leonard A. Sipes, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the warrant never was served.

Some customers and workers interviewed at the Giant yesterday seemed resigned to the violent crime that grips Baltimore. "This is the way things are nowadays," said Mike Ryan, the store receiving manager. "I don't know if more security would have made any difference."

Sarah Floyd, who takes a van provided by her apartment building to shop at the store once a week, said that she will "probably be more watchful than I have been. I'm a little scared, but what do you do when you need groceries?"

Thelma Howard, whose apartment is down the street, remains stubbornly loyal to the neighborhood where she has lived for 50 years. "I was robbed in my own house last year," she said as she emerged from the store. "But I live here. I'm staying here. This is a good neighborhood."

Pub Date: 3/30/96

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