Officers robbed before detective's funeral

Two friends, companion assaulted in Canton

man, 20, arrested

January 18, 2007|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,sun reporter

The two officers are friends -- one a federal agent, the other a Virginia state trooper -- and they planned to attend the funeral of a Baltimore police detective who was shot to death in what appeared to be a botched robbery.

But hours before they were to put on their dress uniforms and join thousands of colleagues in mourning Tuesday, they became robbery victims themselves. Police said the two were held up by a man with a silver-colored handgun shortly after bars and restaurants closed in busy O'Donnell Square in Canton.

The officers and a woman they were with were robbed of a $20 bill, a purse, a cell phone and a tube of Blistex lip balm, a police report said.

Jason E. Dietsch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was beaten and hospitalized overnight with a bruised eye socket. He missed the funeral.

"I'm upset that I couldn't go," Dietsch said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I'm upset that stuff like this is happening in Baltimore and in areas that are fairly decent. I could have been dead. This is terrible. This city has been horrible lately."

The other police officer, Michael McCann, a Virginia state trooper, came to play bagpipes at Detective Troy L. Chesley Sr.'s funeral. He was punched in the nose and eye by one of the robbers but was able to attend the service.

McCann didn't want to talk to a reporter yesterday. "He's sick of this," Dietsch said.

Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State police, said: "We're just grateful that Sergeant McCann and his friends were able to survive the attack and their injuries weren't more severe."

Neither of the men knew Chesley, but both wanted to show their support for the Baltimore police.

McCann arrived in Baltimore about midnight Monday. He had planned to stay with Dietsch, who lives in Dundalk. The men had to get up about 6 a.m. for the funeral but decided to go out anyway.

"We just went out to get dinner," Dietsch said. "He had come in late. I waited for him to eat."

They joined friends -- including Baltimore County police officers -- in Canton. About 2:30 a.m., Dietsch, McCann and their friend Marie Burkhead were standing and talking in the 2800 block of O'Donnell St. when two men came up to them and demanded money, according to police charging documents.

One robber pointed a handgun at the three, and the other, who was unarmed, fought with McCann, punching him in the face, police said. McCann ducked behind a car and called 911, then the unarmed man punched Burkhead in the face and snatched her purse, the report said.

The armed robber pointed his gun at Dietsch's chest, according to the court papers. Dietsch pushed the gun away, then the suspect pistol-whipped him on the right side of his face. Deitsch handed over $20 and a tube of Blistex.

City police officers, responding to the 911 call, stopped a man who was walking "very quickly" a few blocks away in the 2900 block of Boston St. The three victims identified him as the gunman. As he was being arrested, police realized that he had a handgun pressed in his right armpit, according to a charging document.

Jean C. Sierra, 20, of the 300 block of Sacred Heart Lane in Glyndon was charged with 23 criminal offenses, including robbery and handgun charges.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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