Baltimore County police Officer Timothy J. Zombro can take a joke.
These days, he's on the receiving end of good-natured ribbing at the station house for being "lucky" enough to help identify suspects in a string of robberies -- and, possibly, the mystery of a double slaying at Loch Raven Reservoir.
And a few months ago, he was best-known as the rookie who led his police academy class in marksmanship -- and then needed four shots to put down a wounded deer.
"You'd think he could shoot deer better than that," said Capt. Stephen P. Vaughan, scanning a sheet showing Zombro's firearms score of 99.18 out of 100.
Although the joshing shows little sign of fading, Vaughan and others who work with Zombro say he is a smart young officer who is conscientious enough to make his own good fortune.
While others might have been numbed by the routine of roll call, he took a good look at a bank security camera photo -- and led detectives to a pair of robbery suspects.
Yesterday, Zombro seemed embarrassed by all the attention. He's the Owings Mills kid who grew up with dreams of being a baseball player, not a policeman. And now, after less than five months on the streets, he was being credited with helping to break a major whodunit.
"I was glad they were able to get the people they were looking for in a safe manner," he said. "I was just able to put a name to the face."
The name was Michael Zenone. And Zombro certainly knew the face -- a few years back he'd hired Zenone to work as a security guard at a department store.
Zenone and his brother, Anthony J. Zenone, were arrested last weekend and charged with robbing two Baltimore County banks and a Baltimore bingo hall.
They became suspects in the June slayings at Loch Raven when an AK-47 assault rifle found in their Hamilton-area home was linked to cartridge casings recovered at the reservoir.
Zombro, 26, the son of a retired county detective and nephew of two retired Baltimore officers, was a cadet at the county police academy June 15 when the two Cockeysville men were found dead in shallow water near the reservoir's Warren Road bridge. He was among the recruits summoned to the scene to search for evidence.
"I saw the blood down the side of the hill," he recalled yesterday.
After the search, he returned to his studies at the academy, where he would graduate first in a class of 54. His post-academy evaluation described him as conscientious, with a "positive attitude" and a "desire to learn."
He realized he wanted to be a policeman during a 1990 ceremony at Goucher College. His father, Lt. Charles Zombro, was receiving his 30-year pin, and an academy class was graduating. He'd been bitten by the bug.
He studied at Catonsville and Dundalk community colleges, pitching for Dundalk's baseball team, and then became a security guard at Hecht's in Owings Mills Mall.
His father, who retired as commander of county burglary detectives, soon noticed his son had a knack for investigation.
"When he would come home he would be talking about some of the cases they had or some of the things they were doing about the people who were ripping off the store," said the elder Zombro. "You could see where his thinking was good, as far as catching these people who were doing this."
Promoted to security manager at Hecht's in Golden Ring Mall, he hired a young police buff named Michael Zenone. Zenone would walk through the store pretending to shop, but aggressively pursuing shoplifters instead.
But one day, Zenone left work at Hecht's, donned a suit and headed for a shoplifting excursion of his own at Nordstrom in Towson Town Center.
Zombro heard about it after the matter went to court -- Zenone was convicted of theft and had quit working at Hecht's. Zombro went to Nordstrom to watch the video from the store security camera and saw his former employee.
He next saw Zenone's image April 30, during afternoon roll call at the Wilkens Precinct station. He picked up a clipboard, spied the photo of the bank robbery suspect and said, "I know this guy."
He told investigators where Zenone lived, and went on a surveillance of the house. The Zenone brothers were arrested late Saturday night, and Zombro accepted congratulations and thanks from department brass.
Said Vaughan, the captain in charge of patrol at the Wilkens Precinct, "From the chief on down, everybody knows the name Zombro now."
Still his Wilkens colleagues won't let him forget about the wounded deer. After suffering broken legs by being hit by a car on Wilkens Avenue, the deer had crawled into a front yard. Somebody had to put it out of its misery.
Sgt. Paul D. Martin, who was on the scene, told the rookie to handle the unpleasant duty -- and the associated paperwork.
Four shots later, the deer was down -- and Zombro's reputation as a marksman was legend.
As the sergeant put it: "In this field, no matter what you do, good or bad, you're never going to hear the end of it."
Pub Date: 5/09/96