By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun
8:15 PM EDT, October 14, 2011
After a hospital patient was shot and seriously wounded in an apparent robbery Thursday evening, University of Maryland officials sought to assure students and staff that its campus is safe and pledged to step up patrols.
Police confirmed Friday that the 45-year-old victim was a Frederick County man who, according to sources, was a patient at the University of Maryland Medical Center where he was receiving treatment after being stabbed in a home invasion in March.
Officials declined to give a motive, but according to a copy of an incident report, the victim told a woman who found him suffering from gunshot wounds on the sixth level of an underground parking garage that he had been robbed and shot in the back.
A source with knowledge of the investigation said the man, from Middletown, had been shot three times after refusing to turn over his wallet and turning to run. By the time officers found him, according to the incident report, he was unable to speak.
The garage, located at Greene and Redwood streets and known as the Plaza Garage, is owned by the University of Maryland, Baltimore. School officials said Friday that security officers were in the facility at the time but were on a different floor. Officials said there have been three violent incidents reported in the garage since 2004, with a handful of car break-ins reported each year.
Statistics "would suggest that this incident is more of an isolated incident," said Chief Antonio Williams of the university police force. "However, whenever something of this magnitude occurs, we critique it and are looking at how we can upgrade what we're doing."
Baltimore attorney Russell Karpook said he believes officials have not done enough to improve safety there. He represented a Harford County man who sued the university last year in Baltimore City Circuit Court after being hit over the head in May 2009 with a brick in the garage while visiting his brother at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Hours before his client was assaulted, a similar incident had taken place, but Karpook said the university and garage operator did not get the information out and take steps to prevent another attack.
"The operator of the garage said it wasn't their responsibility to provide security; the University of Maryland claimed it wasn't their responsibility, that it was the operator's responsibility," Karpook said. "Neither one of them would say it was their job, and to this day, I don't think they've done anything to make that garage more secure."
In his research on the case, which Karpook said was settled out of court, he found that the garage didn't have a surveillance camera system, and its security staff consisted of "rovers" employed by the operator who performed only cursory checks.
Chief Williams said the school has long had guards patrol the garage, but he said those patrols were "beefed up" after the two attacks in 2009. While there are no cameras inside the garage, he noted that there are others in the area and said the university could reconsider whether to add cameras.
On Friday afternoon, the university sent out an email "alert" to students and staff describing the suspect as a black male in his 20s, who was wearing a Ravens hat, a white T-shirt and blue jeans.
The victim in Thursday's shooting, who has no criminal record, had been stabbed and critically injured in a home invasion. Detectives were exploring any possible connection between the home invasion and the shooting, according to the source with knowledge of the investigation.
Meanwhile, the city police union, students and the city councilman representing downtown were critical of a lack of information disseminated by the university after the 6 p.m. attack.
Police did not confirm that the victim was a hospital patient until late Friday morning, and the students said the school was slow to put out an alert. Those attending classes were told that campus buildings were put on a "shelter in place" status, in which people are advised to stay where they are. But many said they were unaware of the extent of the emergency.
Williams stood by the university's decision not to use its text-message alert system, saying the shooting was confined to a small space and staff were informed of the situation.
In an email to law school students and staff, Assistant Dean Dawna Cobb said she had told Williams that "a lack of information about the shooting including whether a suspect was at large caused a great deal of concern and worry among students." She said that the shelter-in-place status "compounded" the confusion and that not everyone knew about it.
Councilman William Cole IV said the public needed more information, "so that people can respond appropriately."
"I do think the public needs to know what's happening, and at the same time I'd like to know what the next steps are going to be," Cole said.
City police union President Robert F. Cherry, who first reported through the union's Twitter page that the victim was a hospital patient who had been shot during a robbery, wrote that the lack of information "should outrage every citizen."
Baltimore Sun reporter Peter Hermann contributed to this article.
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