Masked attackers beat teen, police say

Group of 7 to 12 involved in robbery


November 15, 2001|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Sean McElroy, an Oakland Mills High School senior and soccer player, was attacked - likely with a stick or club - Saturday night by a group of seven to 12 darkly clad and masked males, Howard County police said yesterday. Police have made no arrests.

County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said a crowd of high school students had gathered in a parking lot at 7125 Columbia Gateway Parkway to celebrate the soccer team's win earlier that day.

Tom McElroy, Sean's father, said members of the soccer team, cheerleaders and many other high school students were there. Llewellyn said many teen-agers had left the area shortly before the attack.

About 11:30 p.m., a group of males approached. "Most of the crowd left because kids were concerned about a possible altercation and fled the scene," Llewellyn said, reading from a police report.

"It was such an ambush to them that they tried to get away and get safe," Tom McElroy said yesterday. "They did what any 17-year-old would do - they got away and came back with the police."

According to police, one of the teen-agers drove to the nearby movie theater to call 911. A short time later, police got a second call reporting that someone had been injured in a robbery. Llewellyn said the second call might have been from Sean or from a friend with him. The friend was not injured, Llewellyn said.

McElroy said that area is a hangout for young people. Llewellyn said it is not a location that has produced trouble for police.

The group of males robbed Sean of money and his cell phone, beat him with a stick or club and punched and kicked him repeatedly, police said. The assailants fled on foot, police said.

When officers arrived, Sean had obvious blunt-force trauma to his face and head and was taken to Howard County General Hospital. He was released Tuesday.

Police were to interview Sean yesterday evening because they had not been able to talk to him extensively at the scene.

McElroy said his son's condition improves a little each day. Both McElroy and soccer coach Don Shea indicated that Sean would not play in Saturday's state soccer championships against Pocomoke.

Sean may be able to at least attend the game, but "we're leaving that up to the physicians," McElroy said.

The coach said that although he felt "very, very bad about it," he was not surprised to hear that a student was robbed and assaulted in Columbia.

"It is rampant everywhere," he said. He recited a list of recent group assaults on teen-agers in Columbia, many of which he said were not reported to police.

There were 11 street robberies reported in Howard County last month, according to police statistics. Of them, four took place in the Columbia area.

About a quarter of the robberies - including street and commercial - between January and June of this year were cleared, according to a semiannual crime report. That figure is down from a nearly 50 percent clearance rate from the same period of 2000.

Last month, a member of the Oakland Mills cross country team was jumped during a practice run on Cradlerock Way.

Jason Forrest, 17, was able to run to safety after being knocked to the ground by one of five to seven teen-agers who had gathered around him.

McElroy said that he believes Columbia is largely a safe area but that he and his wife, Dianne, have always told Sean and their two daughters to be careful.

"As safe as you think you are anywhere, you still have to be mindful of where you are and what's around you," he said.

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