News from the Baltimore region

August 06, 2005


Robotics firm to begin work on new facility

General Dynamics Robotic Systems, based in Falls Church, Va., will break ground Tuesday on a new manufacturing facility in Westminster that is expected to add 135 jobs to the work force of 380.

The 150,000-square-foot building will more than double the company's space along Route 97 in the Carroll County seat. The addition will help the robotics division fulfill a $185 million military contract it was awarded nearly two years ago.

FOR THE RECORD - The headline on an article in yesterday's editions of The Sun about informational meetings for parents at six Baltimore middle schools gave an incorrect date for the sessions. The meetings will be tomorrow.
The Sun regrets the error.

General Dynamics' Westminster plant has been developing computer-sensor and navigational systems for military ground vehicles since the plant opened in 1993.

The new facility will produce robotic systems for the U.S. Defense Department as part of its "future force" of unmanned combat and support vehicles. The company will demonstrate several of those vehicles Tuesday.

The demonstration will feature a 19-ton, eight-wheeled armored vehicle -- the U.S. Army's latest dubbed the Stryker -- operating without a driver and an unmanned Jeep.


Police identify two men killed in west-side shootings

Police identified two men yesterday who were found fatally shot in separate shootings on Baltimore's west side, pushing the city homicide numbers closer to last year's at this time.

As of yesterday, the number of homicides was 169 this year, compared with 172 for the corresponding period last year.

The latest case occurred about 12:30 a.m. yesterday when police were called to the 600 block of Ashburton St. in West Baltimore, where they found a man lying in the middle of the street with several gunshot wounds to his right leg and chest.

Paramedics took Thomas M. Mason, 39, to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was pronounced dead at 1:05 a.m., police said. Police said they knew of no witnesses, suspect or motive.

Mason, whose last address was the 500 block of Queensgate Road in Southwest Baltimore, had been wanted on warrants in Virginia charging him with stealing a car and traffic offenses, said Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman.

On Thursday, police responded to the 500 block of Orchard St. in the city's Seton Hill neighborhood, where they found a 28-year-old man lying on the sidewalk. The victim, Gary Robinson, had a gunshot wound to the head, police said. He was pronounced dead at Shock Trauma at 11:30 a.m.

Robinson's last known address was in the 600 block of Markham Road in Southwest Baltimore. Police did not know of a suspect, motive or witnesses in his slaying.

- Gus G. Sentementes


Police probe apparent suicide of detainee in county jail

An investigation is continuing into the apparent suicide of a 31-year old Columbia man arrested after a street fight with another man and found hanged in his cell at the Howard County Detention Center this week.

Wilfredo Hernandez of the 8800 block Tamar Drive in Long Reach was facing assault charges from the fight July 16, but also was facing possible deportation because he was found with what authorities said were fake alien registration cards at the time of his arrest, according to court documents.

He was from El Salvador and had no relatives in the United States, according to Howard County police. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service had a detainer on Hernandez.

Hernandez was found hanging in his cell at 3:30 p.m. Monday by a correctional officer making routine checks, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and police were called to investigate. The death was not announced until late in the week because it took police that long to reach relatives in El Salvador, officials said.

- Larry Carson


Legionnaires' disease found at St. Agnes HealthCare

Five cases of Legionnaires' disease have been diagnosed at St. Agnes HealthCare in the past month, prompting an investigation of the cases and increased testing and treatment of the hospital's water system.

In recent weeks, three patients who had contracted the disease in the Baltimore area were admitted to St. Agnes, hospital officials said. Days later, two other patients within the hospital were found to have the disease, and investigators have classified them as "possible hospital-acquired" infections.

In response, St. Agnes officials alerted physicians, performed additional testing of the water systems and raised the temperature of the hot-water system to 122 degrees - a temperature at which the bacterium Legionella pneumophila cannot survive, hospital officials said in a statement.

Between 8,000 and 18,000 people are infected with Legionnaires' disease annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those infected usually have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and coughing. The disease is not contagious and spreads after people breathe mists from a water source such as showers and spas contaminated with Legionella.


Alumnus donates $500,000 for law school improvements

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