`I had to help her,' wounded man says of foiling robbery attempt

He, two others were shot as criminals sped away

September 06, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber and Johnathon E. Briggs | Del Quentin Wilber and Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Timothy Frampton says instinct took over when he saw two men robbing a woman of her purse in a liquor store parking lot in Southwest Baltimore Wednesday afternoon.

"Somebody loved that woman. I had to help her," said Frampton, explaining his actions in stopping the robbery - only to be wounded in ensuing gunfire, along with his younger sister and a store employee who was rushing over to help.

The incident began about 4 p.m. Wednesday outside Southwest Discount Liquors at Washington Boulevard and Patapsco Avenue, where Janice Hawkins had cashed her $344 paycheck and bought some lottery tickets - her custom every Wednesday for six years, she said yesterday.

But this time, two men - who had seen her cash the check - approached her from behind. One of them pressed what felt like a gun in her right rib and said, "Just keep on walking. Don't look back. Don't stop."

As they neared her Ford Bronco on the parking lot, Hawkins said, she decided to stop. One of the robbers tried to snatch her purse, and she began pushing him away, even after the other revealed his gun.

Hawkins, 54, who works 48 hours a week as a cook, says she told them, "You're going to have to shoot me because you're not getting this money. I worked too hard for this money."

Just then, a silver-gray Chevy Cavalier approached, and Hawkins says she yelled to the driver for help - only to have him reply, "Give them your pocketbook!"

He was an accomplice - the driver of the pair's getaway car.

That's when Frampton, watching with his sister and a friend as they drove by the store on Washington Boulevard, intervened. He gunned his car's engine, raced into the lot and leapt out. He pushed the two robbers aside, and stood in front of her as the thugs jumped into the Chevy - then one of them opened fire with a handgun from a rear passenger-side window, Frampton said.

He said he was trying to see the car's license tag when he was shot in the left foot. His sister, Anita, 16, still sitting in his car, was hit in the neck. Store employee Dennis Epps, rushing out the store's front door, was shot and wounded in the stomach.

Before his release yesterday from St. Agnes HealthCare, Frampton said he would do it again. "But I would be a little wiser about it," he said during a telephone interview from his hospital room. "I'd play defense better, get the woman away faster. ... I just didn't see anybody else trying to help the woman. Somebody loved that woman. I had to help her. I didn't really think about it."

Anita Frampton was also released yesterday, from Maryland Shock Trauma Center where the 42-year-old Epps remained under treatment.

Police said they have no suspects in the shooting.

Timothy Frampton, 21, said he might have been too aggressive during the confrontation. He acknowledged that he taunted and glared at them, even asked them to fight. But, he said, they should never have begun firing indiscriminately toward the front of the store.

"He was unleashing it right there," Frampton said. "If he was aiming at me, I would have been dead. They were shooting at innocent people without even getting any money."

Hawkins, who was not injured, simply described Frampton's actions as heroic, adding, "He's my God-sent angel."

But the shooting could not have occurred at a tougher time for Frampton and his family.

His father died in 1998; his stepmother in 2000. He lost his job last week after his employer's company folded; he just bought a new house, which he shares with his fiancee and his sister, in the city's Morrell Park neighborhood; and he's raising a 2-year-old son.

"They sure don't need this break," said Sharon Sell, 46, the mother of Frampton's fiancee, Laura Bradley, 20. "They were just getting things squared away."

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