Arundel police call report of sniper shooting false

Man allegedly made up story to explain broken window in employer's van

October 11, 2002|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

When Arthur L. Schroen, 37, called police from his cellular phone Wednesday afternoon to say someone had shot at him near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, police response was prompt and profuse.

The man wasn't injured, but he told police a single bullet had shattered the passenger's side widow of his employer's 2000 Dodge Caravan as he idled at an intersection, police reported.

Within minutes of the call, a Maryland State Police helicopter lifted off, the CIA sped to the scene with a gunpowder-sniffing dog, and agents from the FBI and the National Security Agency joined about 30 county police officers to investigate the reported shooting.

Eight hours later, Schroen was charged with making up the whole thing.

"A lot of manpower and a lot of man-hours went into investigating what turned out to be nothing," said Lt. Joseph E. Jordan, an Anne Arundel County police spokesman who worked until about midnight yesterday fielding calls about the supposed shooting.

Only known incident

The fabricated incident on Winterson Road near Nursery Road in Linthicum appears to be the only allegation of a knowingly false shooting report filed in the suburbs this week, area law enforcement agencies say.

Still, with the string of apparently random sniper attacks unsolved, police throughout the region are wasting no time speeding to any scene that could be related to the killings.

Prince George's County, Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County all reported an increase this week in 911 calls for shots fired.

Nearly every time, police said, the noise was something as innocent as a car backfiring.

"We go out to the scene and find nothing," said Cpl. Tammy Sparkman, a spokeswoman for Prince George's County police. "But it doesn't matter - we check every call."

Although Montgomery County police have investigated hundreds of reports of shots fired, the calls have all turned out to be honest mistakes made by edgy residents, said Officer Derek Baliles, a Montgomery County police spokesman.

Even the thought of a Montgomery resident making a false report during such a serious investigation angered him.

"If someone makes a false statement to us that's going to slow our investigation just because they want to make a name for themselves or get on TV as a poor little victim," Baliles said. "We will have no patience with someone who does that."

Schroen was charged yesterday with making false statements to an officer. If found guilty, he could be fined up to $500 and jailed for up to six months.

Hole in the seat

It was a puncture in the seat - supposedly the bullet hole - that helped investigators conclude that the report was false. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms used a specialized instrument to determine the point of origin for the trajectory.

In this case, curiously, it was somewhere in midair.

"At that point, we knew we had to reinterview this guy," Jordan said.

Police said the man eventually acknowledged trying to cover up breaking his employer's van window by reporting it to police as a shooting.

Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties have not seen a significant increase in the number of calls for shots fired, but police in those areas said the public has been diligently reporting all the white box trucks and vans they see.

In Baltimore City, it's a bit harder to tell.

"False shootings are common here," said Officer Troy Harris, a police spokesman.

"We even have people shoot themselves and claim someone else did it. But we investigate everything."

Asked whether more people have called in this week to report suspicious gunfire, Harris remarked, "Come on, this is Baltimore City."

Sun staff writer Laura Barnhardt contributed to this article.

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