WMAR barricade suspect had been hospitalized for mental illness, mother says

Vladimir Mehul Baptiste faces three charges for ramming a stolen truck into TV news station

  • Baltimore County police identified the suspect who drove into WMAR's Towson studios as Vladimir Mehul Baptiste, 28, of Parkville. Baptiste faces three charges of attempted second-degree murder in addition to charges that include first-degree assault, burglary and malicious destruction of property.
Baltimore County police identified the suspect who drove into… (Photo provided by Baltimore…)
May 14, 2014|By Justin George, The Baltimore Sun

Vladimir Mehul Baptiste imagined conversations with his family, according to his mother, banged on the walls of his home screaming, "What's wrong with me?" and sat in a rainstorm because he said it felt good.

The man now accused of ramming a stolen truck into the WMAR television station had been hospitalized at psychiatric facilities in recent years, his mother said in an interview. She expressed concern her son was using marijuana.

Baptiste was under outpatient care as recently as Monday — one day before police say he barricaded himself into the Towson offices of Channel 2 news. The puzzling attack sent employees scrambling out of the building Tuesday and shut down York Road — a prominent southern entry point into the Baltimore County seat — for hours before a tactical team arrested him.

"Tell everybody we are sorry," his mother, Merizia "Mae" Saindor Baptiste, said on Wednesday. "He's not in his right mind."

No one was injured in the attack. While police said they don't have a motive, police documents released Wednesday said Baptiste believed that by entering the station he could close a portal to alternate universes.

Police said Baptiste told them such "multiverses" were responsible for recent events, including the mass kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The documents also say he referred to himself as a reincarnation of "King Tut" and "Jesus Christ."

"I'm happy he didn't kill anybody," Mae Baptiste said. "God didn't let him kill somebody, thankfully. I don't think I could have lived with that."

Baptiste, 28, is being held in the Baltimore County Detention Center in lieu of $750,000 bail. He has been put on suicide watch, his mother said. He faces 11 criminal charges, including three counts of attempted second-degree murder.

At the Towson television station Wednesday, two police officers stood in the lobby as workers continued repairs.

A delivery man dropped off a stack of pizzas to the busy newsroom, which was fully operational. "I'm just trying to take care of mine right now," WMAR News Director Kelly Groft said as she hustled around the room overseeing the news operation.

General manager Bill Hooper did not know how long repairs would take but said safety was his top priority in the reconstruction of the lobby. He said employee morale was high after the staff overcame a daylong evacuation to put together a newscast and live stream from the damaged building Tuesday night.

"A tired group — a little mentally exhausted — but a lot of high fives," he said.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger declined to comment on the case. He said defendants can get a mental evaluation under Maryland law to gauge whether they are fit to stand trial or whether they were aware of their alleged actions and the consequences.

Baptiste does not have a lawyer named in online court records. He has no criminal record listed in Maryland.

Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson described Baptiste as "mentally ill" after his arrest, something the chief said was apparent during the standoff. Police noted their observations in the statement of charges and police report released Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning, Baptiste woke up and decided he was going to "expose the multiverse world," according to the documents. He walked from his Parkville home to Interstate 695 and York Road and allegedly stole a large green truck belonging to a State Highway Administration contractor.

Driving south, he saw the WMAR-TV station as an opportunity to "expose the multiverses," which he told police was "where bad things happen to people and they disappear because they're not real," the documents say.

He believed he could close the multiverses if he could get into the ABC affiliate's headquarters, police said, and he tried to violently yank the locked doors open when a security guard denied him entry.

"If you aren't going to let me in, I have something for you," he said, according to police documents.

He walked back to the truck, steered up the walkway and began ramming the front vestibule until he drove through. A witness said he sprayed a fire extinguisher and ran upstairs with a black bag while everyone else evacuated the building.

Baltimore County SWAT and K-9 officers found Baptiste barricaded in an office, where a video feed showed him watching news coverage of the event. He had taped messages to the window that included "I am God almighty!" and "I'm here to save you all from the energies," police said.

"Everything is unfolding I don't have to do anything!" said another message, signed "Love Vladimir (GOD)."

Tactical teams breached the room, police said, and found no weapons in Baptiste's black bag or in the building. He did have a golf club with him, police said.

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