Three men were arrested in connection with a series of robberies and carjackings that occurred over a four-hour span Tuesday night across Baltimore County and the city, ending when the men crashed their vehicle near the Domino Sugars factory while fleeing police.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III and Baltimore County Chief James W. Johnson, who announced the arrests at a joint news conference Wednesday afternoon, called the robberies a "mini-crime spree" and said police worked together to catch the suspects, who had open warrants and criminal records.
It all started about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at a gas station at Forest Park Avenue and Cooks Lane in Gwynn Oak. There, a man who was pumping gas was forced at gunpoint into his vehicle, a 1996 green Lincoln Town Car, and driven into the city, where the men stole some of his clothing and other belongings and left him, police said.
The Town Car became their getaway vehicle, police said.
At 7 p.m., in the 5300 block of Dogwood Road in Woodlawn, a female employee at the Millstream Inn strip club was forced into her vehicle, robbed of belongings, and her car was stolen, Johnson said. It's not clear what happened to her car, though it was later recovered by police.
Fifty minutes after that robbery, in Windsor Mill, a man was walking across a parking lot at the Windsor Inn restaurant when, police believe, the three suspects approached him and displayed a handgun. The victim grabbed at the gun, and the victims fled, Johnson said.
The men then moved into the city, Bealefeld said. At 8:30 p.m., two victims were walking in the 2500 block of Gwynns Falls Parkway near Coppin State University in West Baltimore when the green Lincoln pulled up and one of the men stole a woman's purse and other belongings.
The car then traveled to Northeast Baltimore to the 4500 block of Loch Raven Blvd., where they forced several people into a gas station and robbed seven people, including some Morgan State University students.
A short time later, police believe, the men attempted to rob a man at Reisterstown Road and Gwynns Falls, and in the process shot him at least twice — in his leg and eye. He was taken to a local hospital and was listed in serious condition.
"By then, the green Lincoln had become fairly famous," Bealefeld said.
Police broadcast a description of the vehicle, and detectives with the Violent Crime Impact Section spotted it in West Baltimore driving on Fayette Street, Bealefeld said. They followed the vehicle to Key Highway in South Baltimore and attempted to close in, Bealefeld said, but the vehicle accelerated and one of the men threw a .40-caliber handgun out of the sunroof.
The men lost control of the vehicle in Locust Point and crashed, and police were able to arrest them. After getting a search warrant for the car, police found evidence linking the men to several of the robberies. The gun, Bealefeld said, had been taken in a burglary in Northeast Baltimore in April 2010.
Bealefeld said there didn't appear to be any specific impetus for such a rapid series of crimes. "Just bad guys with guns," Bealefeld said. Their names were not disclosed as police continued to investigate and show photo lineups to victims.
"Last night's series of robberies punctuates that a few people are committing most of our violent crime in the Baltimore metropolitan area," Johnson said. "We've worked hard in Baltimore County and the city to build a partnership and relationships that reduce crime and make citizens in the metropolitan area safe."
Johnson said that this week, the two jurisdictions would be using grant funds from the governor's office to serve warrants on people wanted for robberies. "We have open paper on these guys," Bealefeld said of the suspects arrested in the robberies. "Using the collective resources that we have … we can get these robbers off the street."