Boy, 7, accused of attempting to rob Annapolis video store with fake gun

Police release the child to custody of his mother

April 23, 2003|By Ryan Davis and Laura Loh | Ryan Davis and Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Annapolis Hollywood Video store manager Vicky McLaughlin wasn't sure what to make of the bandit pointing a silver-colored handgun at her and declaring, "I'm going to stand this place up." His gun looked real and he was dressed in all black, with a sweat shirt hood pulled tightly around his head.

But this robber was 4 feet tall and weighed 70 pounds. He was 7 years old. And the weapon turned out to be a fake.

"We're still in disbelief that somebody attempted to rob us - and it was a" 7-year-old, McLaughlin said of the Monday afternoon incident.

In the eyes of the law, however, that's just old enough to be taken seriously. The boy, whom police did not identify, was charged with attempted armed robbery and released to his mother.

Police said the incident easily could have taken a tragic turn.

"It's definitely not taken as a joke when someone points a gun and announces a robbery," said Officer Hal Dalton, a police spokesman. "It could have gotten him killed."

The store's employees and the police officers who were called to the scene remained calm, Dalton said. An officer wrested the weapon from the boy's hands.

The child could face a range of penalties, depending on whether he has a criminal record, police said.

The incident happened about 1 p.m., when the boy walked past the Hollywood Video store in the 1700 block of Forest Drive and tapped what appeared to be a gun on the glass storefront, according to police.

Employees said he walked away toward a nearby supermarket, but soon returned and repeated the threatening gesture. "I was like, `Look at this. You've got to be kidding me,'" said McLaughlin, adding that she was nervous but maintained her composure.

McLaughlin, who was behind the counter loading returned videos into cases, said that even though the gun looked like a real .32-caliber handgun, she turned her back on the boy. That's when he and two young companions entered the store, she said.

Authorities could not confirm that the child had companions. He apparently was alone when police officers arrived, minutes after employees called 911.

Although McLaughlin said he was tempted to laugh about the incident, she also was disturbed. She said the boy berated the officers. "We couldn't believe the language he was using," she said.

Dalton said a police officer told the boy to hand over the gun, but he refused and tucked it under his armpit. The officer then grabbed the toy gun from the boy, who struggled to hold on to it.

"The officer did a great job," Dalton said. "From a strictly legal standpoint, lethal force might have been justified."

Police said the orange tip on the weapon that would have denoted it as a fake had been removed.

When questioned by an officer after the incident, the boy continued to maintain that he had intended to rob the store. "He had every opportunity to tell the officer, `I was kidding,'" Dalton said.

Yesterday, the boy's mother went to the video store twice to threaten employees, according to police and store employees. "She's going to be advised not to return to the premises or she could be charged," Dalton said.

McLaughlin said the boy forgot something: asking for money. "He didn't quite have it down pat," she said.

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