A U.S. Postal Service police officer who led city officers on a brief chase into Anne Arundel County yesterday was arrested and charged with holding up an auto parts store in Baltimore.
Postal Officer Leonard William Bryant, 31, was charged with armed robbery, using a handgun in the commission of a felony, conspiracy to commit robbery and first-degree assault.
A Postal Service spokeswoman said disciplinary action is pending.
The holdup occurred shortly after 8 a.m., when two men with guns walked into an Advance Auto Parts store in the 2100 block of Patapsco Ave. and threatened a cashier, said Agent Angelique Cook-Hayes, a city police spokeswoman.
After taking an undetermined amount of money, at least one of the armed men drove away in a white 1996 Lexus registered to a woman in Randallstown, in Baltimore County, police said.
A police officer spotted the car on Patapsco Ave. and attempted to pull it over. Cook-Hayes said the driver drove away, triggering a minor accident involving a patrol car at West Patapsco and Magnolia avenues.
Officers pursued the car briefly, according to transmissions over the police radio, but reported losing it as the driver sped south on the Harbor Tunnel Thruway.
An Anne Arundel County police officer noticed the car on Nursery Road, north of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and stopped the car once it got back on the northbound Harbor Tunnel Thruway.
Police said that when officers stopped the Lexus with Bryant at the wheel, they found two handguns, a postal police badge and a Postal Service identification card on the front seat.
Authorities were looking for the second gunman.
Postal Inspector Douglas Bem said Bryant was hired three years ago and passed an "exceedingly thorough" background check. He is assigned to a post office branch in a Washington suburb in Arlington County, Va.
He is one of 1,500 uniformed officers who protect post offices and distribution centers nationwide and one of 145 who work at eight major distribution centers and hundreds of post offices in the Baltimore-Washington region.
Bem said postal officers are assigned 9 mm Beretta handguns but are required to leave them in their offices once they leave work. He said the weapons recovered by Baltimore police were not issued by the government.
Bryant, who lives in East Baltimore, was awaiting a bail review yesterday afternoon at the Central Booking and Intake Center.
A man who answered the phone at Advance Auto Parts declined to comment.