Worker stopping for coffee fatally shot in Middle River

Man who lives nearby charged with murder

May 20, 1999|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

A 22-year-old swimming pool installer who had stopped for his morning coffee at a Citgo station in Middle River was shot to death yesterday by a stranger who ignored his pleas for mercy, police and his employer said.

Richard H. Curlee, a former Marine who had started a job with Dig M Installers three months ago, was shot repeatedly as a half-dozen horrified bystanders, including several of his co-workers, looked on, said his employer, Marie Rooney.

"Rick begged him, `Please don't kill me, I don't want to die,' " Rooney said. But the gunman fired anyway, then followed the wounded man as he went onto the gas station parking lot still begging for his life.

Within minutes, Kenneth Paul Randolph, 48, of the 2900 block of Eastern Blvd., the same block as the gas station, was arrested. He was charged last night with first-degree murder. No motive was apparent.

"We have been able to find no connection between the suspect and the victim," said Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey.

"He came out of the military, got a job and got killed," Rooney said of Curlee. "He had worked for us since March. He just got engaged. He was a really good, clean-cut kid."

Police said the violence began when a man at the Citgo station's coffee machine threw a cup of coffee at Curlee and co-worker Marty Thompson as they stood in line just after 7 a.m.

"He threw coffee in their faces and pulled a gun out," said Rooney, who owns Dig M Installers, an above-ground pool installation company in Essex. The gunman first pointed the gun at Thompson, but shot Curlee instead.

"Curlee ran out of the store, and the suspect shot him several more times while he was on the ground," said Toohey.

Curlee was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Randolph was picked up as he walked on Eastern Boulevard near the station.

Rooney said Curlee, the county's third homicide victim this year, was a native of Baltimore County. Police said he lived in the 400 block of Lake Vista Circle in Cockeysville.

Rooney said Curlee and the other members of his crew didn't know the assailant, but on Tuesday the same man had tried to pick a fight with another Dig M employee buying coffee.

"He bumped into one of my guys, and said `You want to mess with me?' " Rooney said. But the Dig M worker shrugged him off, she said, and left the store without incident.

All company employees wear shirts with the Dig M logo on it, Rooney said, and the man might have recognized the logo when he shot Curlee. The employee bumped Tuesday was not working yesterday, Rooney said.

The gunman also fired his handgun at two other members of Curlee's work crew, but missed them, Rooney said.

One bullet lodged in the tennis shoe of co-worker Bryan Floyd and nicked his foot, but Floyd was so upset that he didn't realize it until more than an hour after the shooting.

"He said, `Look at this penny stuck in my shoe' and I said `It's a bullet, Bryan,' " Rooney said. The bullet went through his shoe, tore his sock and left a small abrasion on his foot, she said.

The shooting shocked the 50 employees of Dig M, said Rooney, who closed the business for the day yesterday.

"We're a real close-knit group," she said. "All my guys are devastated. You go to work, you get coffee and gas and you're dead? It's unbelievable."

Pub Date: 5/20/99

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