Chase suspect expected to be charged Getaway car owner arrested after bank robbery, police pursuit

2 others remain at large

Miscommunication blamed for lost trail in interstate chase

September 20, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A man questioned in Friday's armed holdup of a Roland Park NationsBank is expected to be charged with bank robbery tomorrow, the FBI said, giving authorities their first break since three suspects outran them in a high-speed chase down Interstate 95.

Dante Carrington, 22, who police said owned the silver-colored 1993 Subaru Legacy they pursued for 33 miles, was formally arrested yesterday by federal authorities and is being detained until his arraignment in U.S. District Court, which the FBI said would most likely be tomorrow.

Maryland State Police were trying to figure out how the suspects eluded the officers driving 30 cruisers from eight jurisdictions who raced down I-95 and the Capital Beltway at speeds exceeding 110 mph.

"We would have preferred to catch the suspects as soon as possible," said Pete Piringer, a state police spokesman.

The pursuit followed an elaborately staged holdup that occurred about 9: 30 a.m. A man dressed in off-white overalls carried a potted plant into the lobby, pulled out a gun, slipped on a mask and ordered 10 employees and patrons to lie on the floor.

Police said two other armed men then jumped over the counter of the bank in the 4800 block of Roland Ave. and filled duffel bags with money from each of the tellers. They abandoned their first getaway car in Park Heights and drove away in the waiting Subaru.

After winding through city streets, the Legacy got onto I-395 and then I-95, where it weaved in and out of traffic. Then it sped to the Capital Beltway and headed west into Montgomery County, where it was lost.

Piringer attributed the suspects' escape to several factors, including traffic congestion and the Subaru's dangerous moves in traffic. Perhaps most of all, each police agency's use of a different radio frequency prohibited officers in the chase from communicating with each other.

Car-to-car communications "gets difficult when they get out of their jurisdictions," Piringer said.

The traffic and lack of communication probably explain why the state trooper leading the pursuit followed the car off the Capital Beltway and onto Colesville Road (U.S. 29) as his colleagues sped past the exit and continued west into Northern Virginia before realizing they weren't chasing anyone.

A case of misdirection

Helicopters had communications problems, too.

A police officer working as an observer in a Baltimore police helicopter called "Foxtrot" first spotted the Subaru in Park Heights. The pilot followed the car but had to give up the aerial pursuit after running low on fuel over southbound lanes of I-95.

The closest state police helicopter available to resume the chase, based in Montgomery County, was on a MedEvac run. The next closest helicopter was at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County.

It picked up the chase on the Capital Beltway, about the time the Subaru had exited at Colesville Road in Silver Spring. All the pilot and his observer saw was a line of police cars continuing the phantom chase.

"They're looking at all this traffic and seeing the cruisers speeding along the [Capital] Beltway," Piringer said, "and before you know it, they're at the American Legion Bridge [separating ++ Maryland and Virginia]. They assumed the ground units had the car in sight."

The reappearing car

But police said yesterday that one of the robbers managed to drive the Subaru the 33 miles from the Colesville Road exit near Silver Spring back to West Baltimore without being detected, despite the car's description and partial license plate number being repeatedly broadcast on police and civilian radio.

A resident of the Dickeyville area called police late in the afternoon to report a car matching the Subaru's description parked outside his apartment in the 5000 block of Dickey Hill Road.

Undercover officers then hid nearby to see whether anyone came to the car. At the same time, police said, the suspect arrested yesterday called police to "create an alibi for himself" by claiming his car had been stolen and somehow returned.

Police took the man into custody for questioning, and yesterday said they had decided to charge him.

Federal officials are allowed to detain suspects until their formal arraignment in front of a federal judge or magistrate. The FBI said that hearing would most likely be held tomorrow.

"We feel that he is involved," said Special Agent Larry K. Foust, a spokesman for the FBI's field office in Baltimore. "We are doing everything in our power to locate these two other people."

Other suspects

The FBI would not say whether they had identified the other suspects.

Foust said photos taken by hidden bank cameras might be released this week. Police said the three gunmen wore masks.

Police declined to divulge what, if any, evidence they have collected, including money and weapons. They said they recovered several hundred dollars the suspects threw out of the car window during the chase. They tossed out the cash in an attempt to get rid of a tiny electronic tracking device used to trace bank robbers and to create traffic chaos, as motorists stopped to retrieve the money.

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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