Clerk fatally shot at Giant Security guard hurt

suspect arrested 12 hours later

November 20, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Brenda J. Buote contributed to this article.

A supermarket clerk was killed and a security guard wounded at a Northeast Baltimore Giant Food store early yesterday as the guard tried to apprehend an ex-convict on probation who was suspected of shoplifting toothbrushes, police said.

Twelve hours after the shooting, police arrested Charles Anthony Thomas, 28. He has faced 10 criminal charges -- all of them dropped -- since his release from prison in March on a drug conviction, according to corrections officials.

A U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force found Thomas armed with a handgun and hiding in a closet of a house in the 1400 block of Edison Highway in East Baltimore. He will be charged with first-degree murder and handgun violations in yesterday's shooting, police said.

A stock clerk, Steve B. Bowers, 44, of Hampden died in surgery at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, shortly after he was wounded in the stomach at 3: 45 a.m. at the Giant in Parkside Shopping Center in the 5100 block of Sinclair Lane.

Bowers was married and the father of two daughters. His niece said he had asked Giant to transfer him to another store because he believed the area was dangerous. A Giant spokesman reached yesterday evening said he couldn't comment without checking personnel records.

The guard, Terrence Callahan, 40, was in fair condition at Bayview after surgery.

Thomas was released from state prison in March after serving nearly four years for possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, according to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

In the seven months since his release, criminal records show that Thomas, while on probation, faced 10 new criminal charges that included burglary, trespassing and drug possession. All those charges have been dropped, however, said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the department.

City police said they received a call at 3: 45 a.m. from the all-night Giant to assist Callahan as he apprehended the alleged shoplifter. By the time Officer Patricia Davis arrived, the alleged shoplifter had seized Callahan's gun and shot both Bowers and Callahan, police said. Two shots were fired at Davis, but she was unharmed, according to police.

Other officers arrived and quickly wheeled out the two wounded men on dollies and evacuated the store of its employees and a few shoppers.

Northeastern District police Maj. Bert Shirey said the department's quick response team sent 14 members to help a dozen Northeastern District officers at the scene.

The heavily armed team members, some of whom dropped into the building from the roof, searched the store for nearly two hours for the suspect without finding him.

A security video, eventually viewed by the response team, showed the suspect leaving the store through the front door.

"It appeared that while the officers were responding, he slipped out the front door," said Shirey, adding that Thomas was known to store employees as a frequent visitor.

Criminal records list several Northeast Baltimore addresses for him. During the incident, he was wearing a white T-shirt and camouflage pants, police said. Several hours after the shooting, police found a bloody white T-shirt in the 5300 block of Goodnow Road -- a few blocks from the store -- that might have belonged to the suspect.

A police spokeswoman, Agent Ragina L. Cooper, said Thomas suffered a self-inflicted wound. He was taken to an area hospital yesterday for treatment, she said. She couldn't provide details.

Bowers worked at several Giant Food stores since 1978, restocking shelves at night, said Giant spokesman Barry Scher. Scher said the Giant yesterday added a second security guard to the store. A city police car also will be stationed at the store temporarily, he said.

Yesterday morning, several Giant employees, some in tears, stood in a nearby parking lot while police searched the store for the suspect. They all declined to comment.

Bowers' niece said yesterday that the clerk had applied for a transfer from the Sinclair Lane store four times. "He didn't like working there overnight," said his niece Karen Bowers. "He thought it was a dangerous area."

"He was a really nice guy, a loving family man who worked full time to support his wife and children," Karen Bowers said.

Friends and family gathered at the two-story brick house in Hampden yesterday morning to provide emotional support for Bowers' wife, Debbie, and two daughters, Stefanie, 12, and Chrissy, 8.

"We found out about the shooting at 6 a.m.," Karen Bowers said. "We rushed to the hospital, but we got there too late. He had been shot at 3:45 and died in surgery."

"The killing was a senseless crime," said Christina Meyers, 23, a friend of the family. "We hope the man who did this is caught. He has to be brought to justice."

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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