Patrol of bank leads to chase, four arrests in Crofton

Police had just started undercover surveillance

February 23, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

The timing of the bank robbery could not have been better -- for the police.

Anne Arundel County tactical officers had begun "rolling surveillance" of nine banks in the Crofton area yesterday when three masked men ran out of the First Union branch at Crofton Center.

The result was a brief high-speed chase, a crash of the getaway car and the arrests of four suspects, including one believed to have been in the vehicle during the robbery. One of the suspects was 15 years old, police said.

The FBI said the group may be linked to a spree of a half-dozen bank robberies in Prince George's and Montgomery counties that began Dec. 20.

Plainclothes county officers were patrolling the Crofton area because of an attempted bank robbery nearby last week.

Western District Detectives William Booth and John Seegers were in the parking lot of the First Union off Route 3 to check on the bank, when the masked men ran out and jumped into a red Plymouth Neon stolen earlier in the day, said Sgt. Edward Bergin, a county police spokesman.

During the brief chase on Route 3 North, one of the gunmen leaned out of the car window and fired shots toward the detectives in their unmarked car, Western's Cpl. Donald Pearson in a police cruiser and Officer Glenn Shorter in a department Jeep, police officials said.

The driver of the red Plymouth turned onto Millersville Road and crashed into a tree after failing to negotiate a sharp curve near Waterbury Road, said Western District Lt. Finice McCabe.

Two of the men were immediately caught. Two others were found hiding behind nearby houses within 15 minutes, McCabe added.

Search efforts continued throughout the afternoon, however, for a fifth man -- prompting a security warning that kept children at Millersville Elementary indoors for recess, and some after school as the manhunt continued.

Police said one of the suspects told them a fifth person was involved, but the search -- including help from helicopters and dogs -- found no one.

"We aren't sure there actually is a fifth man," said Bergin. "We just checked to be sure."

Police said two of the suspects are from Washington -- Kenneth Collins, 31, and the 15-year-old, whom police did not identify because he is a juvenile. The others, said to have no fixed address, were identified as Tayyib Mujihid Walii, 20, and Gerry Lee Osborne, 18.

The adults were charged with attempted murder, armed robbery, robbery, handgun violations, auto theft and related offenses, while the 15-year-old was charged as a juvenile, police said.

Two guns were recovered -- a .45-caliber silver semiautomatic found on the side of Millersville Road, which police believe fell from the gunman's hand when the car swerved, and a pistol near the front seat of the car.

"They have been a concern to us and other law enforcement agencies in the area," Peter A. Gulotta Jr., a spokesman for the FBI's Maryland office, said of the other bank robberies in Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The robbers "have been becoming increasingly more violent, waving guns around and holding guns to people's heads," he said.

Police did not divulge details of what happened inside the First Union branch or the amount taken. However, police said a "large amount" of cash was found in the smashed getaway car.

Sun staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

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