Police surround Spring Grove building to trap alleged copper thief

Two men arrested at state psychiatric hospital, one after hiding for hours in attic

May 15, 2012|By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

Two alleged copper thieves were arrested at Spring Grove Hospital Center on Tuesday, one after hiding for hours in the attic of an abandoned building on the Catonsville campus while police surrounded him.

Dennis W. Dyer, 43, of the 8100 block of Mild Haven Road in Dundalk, climbed out of a porthole in the roof of the psychiatric hospital's Hamilton Building, which was closed and condemned in 1974, and handed himself over to state police troopers at about 6:45 p.m., state police said.

He had first hid in the dark attic space at the top of the one-story building more than four hours prior, said Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.

The second man, Matthew R. Blizzard, 29, who police believe was living at the Baltimore County men's homeless shelter on the hospital campus, had been arrested by hospital police hours before.

At about 1:30 p.m., Baltimore County police received a call about two suspicious men walking around the sprawling hospital campus with saws and crowbars, and referred the report to Spring Grove police before responding, Shipley said.

Because the hospital is state owned, state police also responded.

During an initial search of the Hamilton building, Spring Grove Police Chief Raymond Foxwell and a lieutenant spotted Blizzard on the first floor, and arrested him, Shipley said.

They also saw Dyer climbing into the building's attic, Shipley said.

State police set up a perimeter around the building with the help of Baltimore County and Spring Grove police, and began consulting with the Baltimore County Fire Department about the safety of conducting a search of the building, which has an "extensive presence of asbestos and lead," Shipley said.

Police also located Dyer's girlfriend in Dundalk, and an officer at her home had spoken to Dyer on the phone, unsuccessfully asking him to turn himself in, Shipley said.

At about 6:35 p.m., members of the state police Special Tactical Assault Team Element, similar to a SWAT team, began moving through the building with special breathing apparatuses on, threatening to release a police German Shepherd into the attic space, Shipley said.

About 10 minutes later, Dyer climbed out of the roof.

After turning himself in, he "told officers on the scene he was very thirsty," Shipley said.

The incident represented the latest arrests in a crime trend in the county.

On Monday, Baltimore County police announced a special investigative team to deal with metal thefts in the county.

Police Chief Jim Johnson said the theft of copper has more than quadrupled in the county since 2009, and nearly doubled as a share of all metal theft, helping to account for millions of dollars in stolen metals in the county per year.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

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