Neighbors, friends and Aberdeen city officials reacted with a mixture of shock, dismay and alarm Wednesday over the abduction of Vi Ripen from her home Tuesday morning.
Though the Ripken family matriarch, who is the mother of baseball Hall of FamerCal Ripken Jr.and three other children, was found unharmed in her car parked near her Clover Street home early Wednesday morning, the kidnapping was unsettling to many in her hometown, where Ripken is much admired and known personally by many its residents.
Mike Hudson, who lives across the street from Ripken, called the incident "shocking."
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Aberdeen, MD, USA
"I hope for the sake of neighborhood it was more of a targeted thing," Hudson said, adding that it would be even scarier if Ripken had been abducted randomly, like it could have happened to anyone anywhere.
Late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, Hudson, who lives with his daughter and mother, said police came to his home and asked a few questions.
Soon, he saw cars, presumably police or investigators, drive up and park in the neighborhood.
When Hudson woke up to go to work Wednesday morning, he said cars were parked up and down the Clover Street, the street was blocked off and police were taking photographs of the inside of Ripken's car, which was parked just a few houses down from her home.
Aberdeen Police, who are investigating the abduction, say Ripken was found in the back seat of her car with her hands bound.
Hudson was understandably shaken, as was the rest of his family.
"It's kind of scary," he said.
Hudson said he tried to imagine what would have happened if it had been his daughter in Ripken's situation.
"It still is surreal," he added.
Hudson believes his mother will want to get some sort of alarm or security system after this incident.
"When you know somebody, it makes it a little more real," he said.
Police have released a description of the kidnapper but have not said if they believe Ripken, 74, was targeted or taken randomly.
City Councilman Bruce Garner said he is not completely shocked something like this could happen, nor does he think what happened to Ripken necessarily reflects on the city's safety.
"It was planned out pretty well and just think he got cold feet," Garner said of the suspect, adding he thinks Ripken was targeted.
"I think she was," he said. "Thank God she is OK and thank God they [the Ripkens] are all OK."
"I just can't imagine what they went through from 8:30 in the morning," Garner said of the Ripken family. Three of her children, Bill, also a former Major League ballplayer with the Orioles and other teams, Fred and Ellen, live in Harford County, while Cal Jr. lives in northern Baltimore County.
Vi Ripken, the widow of the late Orioles manager and coach Cal Ripken Sr., is active in the Aberdeen community and is often seen around Harford County, in particular at Aberdeen's Ripken Stadium, home of the Aberdeen IronBirds minor league team, which is owned by members of her family.
As recently as last week, she was seen watching her two of her granddaughters playing a softball game at Harford Community College's Thomas Run Park in the company of her son, Fred.
From a security perspective, Garner thinks Aberdeen's police bike patrols and undercover work have been going very well and that city residents have every reason to feel they are safe.
"I think we are in real good shape," he said of the city's crime prevention efforts.
He also thinks some video footage or witnesses must be available. If, for example, the suspect stopped in a convenience store or forced Ripken to use an ATM, something which police won't comment on at this point.
"Somebody somewhere got this on tape," Garner said. "I feel very, very sure that in just a matter of time, he [the suspect] is done."
City Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young, who said she knows Vi Ripken, called the abduction "something, in my mind, we don't think of in Aberdeen."
"I am appalled that somebody would do something like this," Young said Wednesday afternoon, in noting that many of the details of what happened remain murky from a public standpoint.
"From what I know so far of the situation, I don't know if it is a random act," Young said.
For such an event to happen to anyone, Young continued, "I think it would be very unnerving, and I certainly know that our police department is working very diligently to find the person."
"I would not wish this situation on anybody. It's totally inappropriate," she added.
Young said she had checked on Ripken after hearing what happened and was relieved to find no harm had come to her and that she was not injured.
City Councilwoman Ruth Elliott, a former schoolmate of Ripken's, said she, too, was glad Ripken was not harmed.
"You have all kinds of people in this world. You don't know what your next-door neighbor might be," Elliott said. "It can happen anywhere. I was alarmed that it happened here, but I know what the real world is. It's nothing any locality can do to prevent it beforehand. It's just the way it is."
"I was very alarmed and very much surprised," she said of the incident. "I am just glad that she is OK."
"We will find him. We will get him," Elliott said. "The FBI is involved. Of course, they always are with kidnapping."
She said people should stay aware of who is around them and said the city police department goes out to various organizations to speak about personal security.
"I think we get around. We are community-oriented," she said.