Homeowners' video camera helps police make arrest in vandalism, shooting case 3: 15 a.m. drive-by visitor recorded on videotape

February 09, 2000|By Kimberly Marselas | Kimberly Marselas,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

After four rock attacks on their son's parked car and bullets fired into their house, a fed-up Arnold couple finally caught a suspect themselves -- on videotape.

Their late-night camera surveillance resulted in the arrest last week of a 15-year-old Severna Park boy. Police said he was caught on tape in a drive-by act of vandalism, tossing a rock from a moving pickup truck at the car of 18-year-old Josh Weiszhaar, parked outside his family's home on Long Meadow Way.

"We didn't have any other way to catch him," said David Weiszhaar, Josh's father, explaining why the video camera was rolling nightly, aimed from an upstairs bedroom window. "The police said if we could give them something, they'd help us."

The car vandalism took place late at night, but the most serious incident -- the shooting -- happened during the day Jan. 20, when schools were closed because of the season's first big snow.

No one was injured by the gunshots, but Josh and his mother, Carol, were at home when five bullets whizzed into the upstairs bedrooms and shattered the living-room window about 12: 45 that afternoon.

When county police Detective Edward Stratton arrived to investigate the shooting, he was told about the repeated damage to Josh's car.

The camera had been in use for several nights before the shooting, and several more passed uneventfully before another attack on the car occurred at 3: 15 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 23. After a neighbor told them about new damage that morning, the Weiszhaars checked the video and found an almost-instant replay.

The Weiszhaars turned the evidence over to police, who had still photos made from the videotape.

"It was very clear. It wasn't a close-up," Stratton said of the images showing a person driving a small Toyota pickup truck with mag wheels and a stripe on the side. Although the rock-toss is not clearly visible, Stratton said, "you can hear the noise" of the impact.

The pickup truck was traced to a home in Severna Park.

A youth, who was not named by police because he is a juvenile, confessed to the vandalism and shooting, but said he used the truck only in the incident captured on film, Stratton said.

"It was a cousin's girlfriend's vehicle, just there on the weekends," Stratton said.

"We had our suspicions before, but this tape helped us track him down," Stratton said.

The vandalism apparently stemmed from a conflict involving a girl, the detective said.

The suspect, a Severna Park High School student, is charged as a juvenile with five counts of malicious destruction of property, possession of his father's .22-caliber handgun, reckless endangerment, and five counts of driving without a license.

The suspect has been released in his mother's custody pending a Feb. 24 appearance before a state juvenile hearing officer.

Stratton said police sometimes set up surveillance in cases of repeated vandalism, but many minor cases go unsolved for lack of evidence and witnesses. Stratton urged victims of vandalism or nuisance crimes to report them and said he would welcome more videotaping.

"This does not happen very often," Stratton said. "I wish it did. It sure would make my job a lot easier."

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