Robbery suspect's death investigated

Arundel police seek to determine whether shooting was justified

March 14, 2000|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County police said yesterday that they are investigating whether officers were justified in shooting a 24-year-old robbery suspect who was armed with a metal pipe that had been duct-taped with a carpenter's level to look like a gun.

The suspect is alleged to have pointed the hardware at police and was fatally shot in the chest by two officers with .40-caliber Sig Sauer semiautomatic handguns. Police identified the suspect as Gary James Beemer.

Police said the officers, who were responding to a robbery at a Brooklyn Park Pizza Hut late Saturday, didn't realize Beemer's weapon was a homemade replica of a sawed-off shotgun.

Beemer is alleged to have used the fake gun to rob employees closing the Ritchie Highway pizza shop for the night, said Officer Charles Ravenell, department spokesman.

Police received the robbery report from an employee who was able to slip into a back room, where he used a cell phone to call police while the robbery was happening, police said.

Squad cars arrived in about a minute and surrounded the Pizza Hut just before midnight, according to police.

An off-duty Western District officer, Robert Vane, who was on his way to a second job, and Northern District patrol Officer Steven Thomas, who was on duty, reached the employee-only side door just as Beemer was coming out of it, police said.

According to police, Beemer was holding the fake weapon at his hip with the barrel exposed.

Instead of dropping the weapon as the officers had ordered, Beemer is alleged to have raised his fake shotgun and pointed it at Vane and Thomas, Ravenell said.

The homicide squad is continuing its investigation.

Police officials declined to release further details about the incident -- including how many shots were fired and the approximate distance between the officers and Beemer.

"It's still too early to say. Certain interviews still need to be done," Ravenell said.

Fire department spokesman John M. Scholz said Beemer was transported as an unstable priority emergency to Harbor Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead.

While the incident is being reviewed, Vane, a 7-year police veteran, and Thomas, a 4-year veteran, have been given administrative assignments, Ravenell said.

Vane and Thomas, along with the other officers who responded, have received traumatic incident counseling, said Ravenell.

Beemer lived in the 100 block of E. 11th Ave. in Brooklyn Park -- about a block from the pizza shop, which is at the corner of a strip mall.

According to court records, Beemer pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm in 1992. He served a probationary sentence, which included a condition that he not carry a firearm and that he complete alcohol counseling; in February, Beemer was arrested for marijuana possession, records show.

Pizza Hut employees declined to be interviewed. Instead, they referred calls to John Schulze, vice president of the company, who said: "We think it's a tragedy when anyone is killed. But we appreciate how the Anne Arundel police responded and handled the situation and kept our people safe."

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