First, Officer James Lytton felt the feet. Then his partner felt the head. Within seconds yesterday, routine questioning of two men throwing away a rolled-up carpet became a homicide investigation.
The officers quickly arrested two men at gunpoint after finding a body inside the carpet, which they said the two men were trying to dump into a trash bin at the Claremont Homes public housing complex shortly before 2 a.m.
Police said the 25-year-old victim died of an apparent gunshot wound to the head. Investigators say they think he was shot in his Silver Spring apartment and driven north.
"We don't know why Baltimore," said Anne Evans, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department, where the suspects were being interviewed last night.
Police said murder charges were pending against Ramsey C. Gilmore, 23, of the 8800 block of Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring. Lemel K. Brown, 29, of the 3600 block of Parkway Terrace in Suitland, was expected to be charged as an accessory to murder, police said.
Investigators said the victim, whose name was being withheld until his relatives were notified, was Gilmore's roommate.
Lytton was patrolling the complex off Sinclair Lane with Officer Trever Britt of the Baltimore Housing Authority. The two agencies were teaming up in an effort to quell a recent outbreak of violence and drug dealing.
About 1: 50 a.m., the officers happened upon the pickup truck. The tailgate was down, and the suspects "were in the process of throwing a carpet in the Dumpster," according to the police report.
Police said one of the suspects told the officers that he had been given the carpet but was throwing it out because "it did not match his house and it was moldy." Police said the carpet, which was wrapped in black electrical tape, had a large bulge on one end and a small bulge on the other end.
"It had a manlike shape," said Maj. Bert L. Shirey, commander of the Northeastern District station. "It was obvious to [the officers] that there was a human form in there."
Lytton said in his report that he "felt the cloth and felt what I thought was human feet," then asked the suspect why he had picked that bin. "He stated it was the first one he found to be empty," the report says.
Britt then "felt the carpet and felt a head," the report says. The suspects were then handcuffed and arrested. Police said the body was wrapped in a sheet and dressed in underwear. A pillow had been placed over the man's head.
Shirey said the case is in the hands of Montgomery County detectives. "This is one homicide that is not going to be stuck with me. We're going to send this one back where it came from," he said.