Ga. bank robbery suspect in standoff with police Officers surround Yale Heights house after arrest attempt

April 27, 1996|By PETER HERMAN AND JOHN RIVERA | PETER HERMAN AND JOHN RIVERA,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Miranda Barnes and John Rivera contributed to this article.

An ex-Army Ranger charged with taking seven hostages in a Georgia bank holdup Tuesday began an armed standoff yesterday with city officers and FBI agents from a Southwest Baltimore house that lasted into the night, authorities said.

Police said the man, identified as Ronnie Bright, 24, warned negotiators that he would not be taken into custody. They said he had a powerful Intratec TEC-9 semiautomatic machine pistol and possibly other high-powered weapons.

About 30 officers took over the usually quiet neighborhood off Frederick Avenue, including members of the city Police Department's Quick Response Team and FBI agents carrying shields, wearing riot gear and holding machine guns and rifles.

A woman who lives across the street from where the drama was unfolding, in the 4500 block of Cedar Garden Road in Yale Heights, said she saw a man leaning from a second-floor window holding a gun.

"He was saying that the police officers weren't going to take him alive," said the woman, who wouldn't give her name. She said police snipers swarmed into her house about 12: 30 p.m., ordered her to leave and took up positions at her bathroom windows.

Police warned residents in the 500 block of Thornfield Ave., the 500 block of Lucia Ave. and the 4500 block of Cedar Garden Road to stay in their basements. Students at Beechfield Elementary School who live on those streets were kept in the auditorium until 5: 30 p.m., then released to their parents.

Arlene Anderson, whose 10-year-old son is a fifth-grader at the school, said she heard about the standoff from her mother. "I panicked and called the police station," she said.

Some residents were not allowed to return home last night; others were escorted home by police officers.

Since the man took no hostages, police were content to wait him out. They kept in contact by telephone, and occasionally the man talked to officers from the second-floor window of the two-story red-brick rowhouse. He had not fired any shots as of yesterday evening.

Police said the man demanded to speak to someone whom they would not identify. Earlier, officers had been looking for a light-blue Nissan minivan driven by the man's girlfriend, which had been spotted in the neighborhood.

Special Agent Jay Spadafore, an FBI spokesman in Atlanta, said Mr. Bright was charged with holding up a First Union Bank branch in Norcross, Ga., Tuesday and was armed with a 9mm handgun and with either an Intratec TEC-9 or an Ingram MAC-10 semiautomatic machine pistol.

Mr. Spadafore said the man, dressed in green camouflage pants, an olive T-shirt and hiking boots, held seven people hostage in the suburban Atlanta bank for 45 minutes, warned that he was "not going to be taken inside this bank" and threatened to open fire if anyone pressed the alarm. Police said that he escaped with a bag of money and that none of the hostages was harmed.

Mr. Spadafore described Mr. Bright as a former Army Ranger pTC who was with the 75th Ranger Regiment, stationed at Fort Benning, Ga. Other details, such as his rank and date of discharge, were not immediately known.

Authorities said that the suspect has been living in the Atlanta area and was known to have relatives in the Northeast and may have an address in Arlington, Va.

Police said they learned Mr. Bright was in Baltimore and went to 4503 Cedar Garden Road, believed to be the home of the grandmother of the suspect's girlfriend. The standoff began about 12: 30 p.m., when city robbery detectives and FBI agents tried to serve an arrest warrant in the Georgia holdup on Mr. Bright.

Police said they walked into the house and confronted a man, who was standing at the top of a staircase holding an assault weapon. They retreated and began negotiations.

Col. Ronald L. Daniel, chief of the Field Operations Bureau, said yesterday evening that the man was cooperative. He said the suspect agreed to put down his weapon and show his hands through a window so officers could evacuate an elderly neighbor in need of medical attention.

Yesterday evening, police called in Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. trucks to stand by. They would not say whether they planned to turn off power to the house. Police also had a small armored car with gun ports available around the corner.

"We're just trying to get him to surrender," Colonel Daniel said, adding that talks "were not going well." Police said the man had not threatened to shoot officers or take his own life.

Pub Date: 4/27/96

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