2 victims tell court of bloody '06 shootout at store in city

April 10, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

It was a regular afternoon at Keeper's Market, a tiny neighborhood convenience store on Brehm's Lane in Belair-Edison. Miss Debbie was buying her scratch-off tickets at the front counter, the store owner was checking inventory in the beverage case and Miss Linda and a manager were playing video games in the corner.

Then the nightmare began. When it was over minutes later, gunsmoke would be thick in the air and the manager would be lying on the floor with 14 bullet holes in his body.

The three men in ski masks walked in just after 2 p.m. Jan. 4, 2006, seeking to rob the store. At least one had a gun, which was placed to the head of owner Shelby Killian. Her husband, manager John Killian, looked up from the video games and saw what was happening. He shushed Miss Linda and motioned for her to get down. And he grabbed his 9 mm handgun from his waistband and stepped forward.

"All I remember thinking was, `Now what do I do?'" John Killian said in court.

The Killians testified yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court at the trial of Richard Keith Hardy III, one of three men accused in the robbery. The 19-year-old has pleaded not guilty.

Police said that less than $100 was taken in the robbery and that the money was found later near the scene.

John Killian, 47, said he thought the sight of his gun might be enough to scare off the robbers. He trained it on a man who he said was holding a silver-colored gun to the head of his nephew, one of two other employees working that day.

Instead, Killian said, the man holding a gun to his wife's head - prosecutors believe it was Hardy - fired at him, striking him in the left chest and left arm.

Gunshots erupted, the loud reports echoing off the tin ceiling in the basement store.

"I knew my husband was out there, but I didn't know where he was," Shelby Killian said. She testified that during much of the ordeal, a man from the neighborhood whom she had hired a day earlier lay over her on the floor.

Although injured, John Killian said, he squeezed off several rounds at a robber near the front door. Then Killian fell to the floor and dropped his gun. He said he saw the man who shot him casually approach. That man stood over him and fired again and again, Killian said.

"I was laying there thinking, `When does this stop?'" Killian said.

By then, the third robber had ducked behind the counter and was hiding with the employees, the Killians testified.

When the man who shot him walked away, John Killian said, he spotted his handgun near his left shoulder. He said he grabbed it and, fearing the man was retrieving another weapon, fired several shots at him.

With two robbers wounded - one severely enough that he had to be dragged from the store as the other two fled - the ordeal ended. A barely conscious John Killian began barking orders to the other employees: Sound the alarm. Call 911. Lock the door so that the robbers don't come back and so that passing schoolchildren on their way home don't see the bloodshed.

Shelby Killian rushed toward her husband. "Don't worry," he said he assured her. "I'm not going to die. Just apply some pressure to the wounds."

"Blood was everywhere," she testified. She tearfully described how calling her mother-in-law was the worst phone call she had ever had to make.

Her husband had been shot 11 times, with several of the bullets passing completely through his body, but John Killian survived. He spent about a month in the hospital. He still has six bullets in his body and has limited use of his left arm and right leg.

Hardy and another man, Darryl Z. Thames Jr., 19, were also injured in the shootout, according to prosecutors and police reports. None of the other customers or employees was hurt.

Thames - who police believe was the first person Killian wounded - is paralyzed from the shooting, and a bullet broke one of Hardy's legs. Paramedics and police found both men near the store.

Thames pleaded guilty in August to attempted first-degree murder and use of a handgun in a crime of violence and is scheduled to be sentenced in June, according to computerized court records.

The third man accused in the robbery, Devin Lamont Crawford, 19, is scheduled for trial next month.

In the Killians' description of Jan. 4, 2006, Hardy was the only robber who fired his weapon.

In a recorded statement that Hardy gave police from his hospital bed the next afternoon, he admitted he was one of the robbers but said neither he nor Thames had guns with them. Hardy told police that Crawford was the man who shot Killian and that Killian fired first.

If the jury concludes beyond a reasonable doubt that either scenario is accurate, Maryland law allows for a conviction of attempted first-degree murder.

Hardy also is charged with robbery, assault and weapons counts. His case is to continue this morning before Circuit Judge Charles G. Bernstein.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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