Woman taken hostage at station

Officer is attacked, but after 3 hours the suspect ends the standoff, surrenders

April 14, 2006|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

As Baltimore's top police commanders huddled in a conference room for their weekly review of crime statistics yesterday, a desperate scene had begun to unfold miles away at one of the department's station houses.

Hearing of a hostage situation at the Northeastern District station house, Deputy Maj. James Rood, the district's No. 2 commander, left the meeting at downtown headquarters and rushed back to the station house. The district commander, Maj. Antonio Rodriguez, who was off duty, drove in from home.

"We notified everybody and their brother," Rood said. "You just don't know what's going to happen."

With a police helicopter circling overhead, police commanders blocked the streets around the station house, in the 1900 block of Argonne Drive on the edge of Morgan State University's campus, and deployed a SWAT team and hostage negotiators.

The situation: An arrested man who was brought into the station house shortly before noon on a minor drug charge somehow slipped his handcuffed hands to his front, assaulted a male officer, and forced a civilian clerical worker into a small office.

With a pair of scissors as a weapon, the man began a three-hour standoff with police.

"First, there were three or four cop cars, then four or five more came blaring in, and then the SWAT team came," said Antione Kinard, a Morgan State University sophomore, who saw the scene unfold from the third floor of the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center, across the street from the station.

"I saw a police officer on the roof go into the ventilation system," he said. "It was wild."

The man holed up inside a small office typically used by detectives at the station house. With a woman civilian employee of the station as his hostage, the man began to communicate with police negotiators by phone.

As police vehicles and ambulances surrounded the station, a city Fire Department ladder truck was positioned in front of the building. The ladder was extended onto the roof of the building and at least two members of the SWAT team climbed onto the roof at about 1:15 p.m.

At 2:25 p.m., a loud bang was heard coming from inside the police station. The source of the bang was not immediately clear, but police said it was not a gunshot and they could not confirm whether the noise had been from a flash grenade sometimes used by police to disorient hostage-takers.

About a half-hour later, the hostage negotiators had persuaded the man to give up. He released the clerk, who was unharmed, and he was taken into custody without injury. Police officials said the man never managed to free himself from his handcuffs.

"It is unique, but unfortunately these things do happen," said Rodriguez. He said the suspect never made any threats or demands, except for cigarettes.

The suspect, identified by police as Rodney M. Bethea, 21, had been arrested in a marijuana case before the hostage-taking incident. Now he faces the additional charges of false imprisonment, two counts of assault, one count of second-degree escape, and assault with a deadly weapon, a police spokesman said.

Bethea lives in the 1000 block of Woodson Road in North Baltimore.

The officer who was initially assaulted was treated for minor injuries and released from Mercy Hospital, police said.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Joe Palazzolo and Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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