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County police chief says mall shooting not a 'random act of violence'

The fatal shooting of a 19-year-old Baltimore man at Towson Town Center Monday night was not a "random" act, Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson announced Tuesday.

Johnson, speaking at a press conference at the Baltimore County Public Safety Building in Towson on Dec. 20 said, "We know now, based on the investigation so far, that this absolutely was not a random act of violence" adding that detectives have also ruled out the possibility of a robbery as a motive for the killing.

Rodney Vest Pridget, 19, of the Baltimore area, died of gunshot wounds outside Nordstrom at about 6:20 p.m. Dec 19.

According to Johnson, the victim and the assailant were in the mall prior to the shooting, although Johnson could not say whether the parties were engaged in a dispute or if the victim and his assailant had a relationship prior to the shooting.

But after police established that the attack was not random, Johnson emphasized that mall-goers should not fear going to the mall to finish their holiday shopping.

"Our shoppers are safe in Baltimore County," Johnson said. "We want our people, our citizens to come out and feel safe with the children."

Fifth District County Councilman David Marks wrote in an email Tuesday morning that he was "obviously upset" by the incident and had been in contact with Johnson, Towson police and mall management.

Marks said he had received about a dozen calls and/or emails from concerned constituents Tuesday, and at the news conference announced that ultimately, mall-goers will "be more safe (now) than … before" the shooting.

Johnson said technology has played a "significant role" in helping the investigation so far.

In addition to cameras inside the mall, Johnson said information gleaned from outside cameras that are now required at shopping centers by county law have helped advance the investigation. Johnson would not say exactly what the video showed.

In 2005, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz — then a County Council member — championed a bill requiring cameras be installed at area malls and shopping centers that contained at least 15 storefronts. This, in the wake of a February 2005 fatal shooting of a popular St. Paul's School teacher.

Contacted the day after the shooting, Kamenetz told the Towson Times that he was "pleased that the surveillance cameras are another effective tool" in helping police solve crimes. Police "cleared 100 percent of the homicides committed in Baltimore County in 2010," Kamenetz said.

Johnson said the department is "optimistic" that they will ultimately clear this case.

"We have hard-working detectives and field personnel that are running out many leads at this time," Johnson said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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