A man who was attacked by would-be robbers at the upscale Village of Cross Keys shopping center in North Baltimore yesterday afternoon grabbed his own gun and fatally shot one of the assailants in a parking lot, city police said.
Investigators believe that the man who opened fire just before 2 p.m. might have been on his way to a bank when he was attacked by three men who jumped out of a white car in front of a Williams-Sonoma store.
During the brawl, the man who had been attacked was able to pull away to retrieve a handgun concealed inside his Honda Accord, and then he fatally shot one of the attackers, said Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman.
Bullets shattered windows of his car. The other two assailants hopped back inside their car and sped off with a fourth man driving, Moses said.
The four men did not appear to be armed, police said.
Police did not release the name of the man who was attacked. But several employees at the center and a high-ranking police official with knowledge of the investigation described him as a gas station owner in his 50s who regularly makes deposits at the Columbia Bank and who might have been targeted.
The shooting victim, whom police had not identified last night, was taken to Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Moses said.
Within 30 minutes of the shooting, Moses said, police had found the white vehicle used by the attackers, abandoned at Cold Spring Lane and Greenspring Avenue. The men were being sought last night.
One of the suspects turned up at Maryland General Hospital yesterday with a gunshot wound to his hand and was transferred to Maryland Shock Trauma.
Police investigated and the suspect was identified as one of the attackers, police said. They said the suspect is expected to be taken into custody upon his release from the hospital.
Moses said the man who was attacked had a permit for the gun and would probably not face criminal charges. The city state's attorney's office reviews fatal shootings.
Shoppers who pulled into Cross Keys yesterday saw something they are wholly unaccustomed to: police cars and yellow crime scene tape blocking part of the parking lot. A police helicopter hovered overhead for part of the afternoon.
The attack took place at a plaza filled with women's clothing stores such as Ann Taylor and Talbots and in a parking lot usually filled with luxury vehicles.
Cross Keys - in the 5100 block of Falls Road, parallel to Roland Park - includes about 30 stores, a Radisson Hotel, and beauty salons and spas such as Elizabeth Arden's Red Door. High-end condominums and townhouses and business and professional office buildings are included in the 73-acre community.
Store employees and customers said they couldn't recall anything like yesterday's attack ever happening, and police said there have been no reported robberies or attempted robberies there in recent months.
Michelle J. Schiffer, vice president and general manager of Cross Keys, said two teams of security guards patrol the grounds. There is security for the shops and security for the gatehouse and roads.
"This is a wonderful gated community," she said, adding that she could not release any details about what happened yesterday.
Store employees said they did not hear gunshots but saw several customers rush inside when the shooting began.
"People ran inside and told us they heard gunshots," said Tara Williams, a sales associate at Ann Taylor for more than two years.
She and other employees said they were in disbelief.
"This is completely out of the norm," she said. "Nothing like this has ever happened here before. It's really shocking to see."
"It was so scary," said Rani Hyun, manager of Cross Keys Cleaners. "It's such a quiet place - so much security."
Most stores remained open yesterday evening, although employees noted that business was slower than usual.
Williams and other employees worried that news of the attack would, at least temporarily, affect business.
"There's a strong possibility this could scare customers," she said.
Two women shopping together who didn't want to give their names said they would think twice before coming back.
But other shoppers said they were unfazed.
"Shootings happen everywhere," said Brenda Jones of Pikesville, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University.
Jones and her mother were relaxing in the tidy courtyard "enjoying the ambience," she said.
Patty Satisky, a Baltimore County resident who said she has frequented the Cross Keys area for 40 years, said the crime wouldn't keep her from coming for her regular hair appointments.
"I don't think there's any place that's completely safe," she said, adding that she is a retired Baltimore school teacher who is "used to being in an environment where there are problems."
Gus G. Sentementes and Doug Donovan contributed to this article.