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Suspected serial burglar's smash and grab in Aberdeen turned deadly

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Before he broke into to the Target in Aberdeen in the early morning hours of March 21 and was later shot and killed by police following a high speed highway chase, Rajsaun McCray was already facing store burglary charges in three other Maryland counties.

Court documents in Maryland also show police investigators suspected McCray was a serial smash and grab artist whose activities may have reached into other states, though he only had a single conviction on his record in Maryland.

He served a brief jail term and was still on probation from a 2012 burglary conviction in Charles County, where police charging documents say DNA collected from a Virginia criminal case led them to McCray.

In the Maryland burglaries in which McCray was charged, the merchandise taken was always the same – popular electronic devices such as iPhones, iPads and Xbox game consoles – as were the basic facts: The burglar gained entry by smashing the glass in a door with a rock, brick or other heavy object and using pry bars or similar means to get the merchandise from locked display cases. He got in and out quickly and covered up to avoid his face being seen on surveillance cameras.

It typically took authorities months to catch up with McCray and, like the Charles County case, DNA left behind at the crime scenes was matched to McCray and is cited in charging documents in other cases.

All the prior burglaries for which he was arrested occurred in the southern part of the state where McCray, who had addresses in southeast Washington, D.C., and Upper Marlboro in Prince George's County, was also known as a pretty good amateur drag racer.

His luck ran out in Aberdeen, when security at Target notified Aberdeen Police of a burglary in process, and the first officer arrived before McCray could load any of the loot into his vehicle, a Dodge Caliber, an out-of-production crossover model and, perhaps, an odd choice for someone used to burning through a quarter mile.

Maryland State Police say McCray rammed the first Aberdeen Police car on the scene, disabling the vehicle and slightly injuring the officer driving. He then fled with other Aberdeen cruisers in pursuit, drove onto northbound I-95, where state troopers joined the chase. At the Route 155 exit in Havre de Grace, McCray turned around and drove back south on the highway, past the Aberdeen exit and went another two miles onto the southbound entrance ramp to the Maryland House Travel Plaza.

During the chase, which State Police say reached 100 mph, McCray's vehicle rammed other police vehicles – at least two other Aberdeen Police cars were damaged – and one tire in the Caliber was flattened by stop sticks used by police to disable vehicles being pursued in such situations.

According to the State Police account, McCray tried to run his vehicle up an embankment – as if to try to cut back onto the highway – but then drove back onto the ramp, turned the vehicle to face the police vehicles that had gathered at the bottom of the ramp and stopped.

When several officers left their vehicles to apprehend him, State Police say McCray started up and began driving straight at them. Fearing for their lives, the four officers opened fire, State Police said in a statement following the shooting. The mortally-wounded McCray was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died a short time later. None of the officers was injured.

Other than his vehicle, police said McCray did not have a gun or other weapon. The merchandise he took from the Target, which Aberdeen Police said included headsets, an Xbox and iPods, was found on the ground outside the store.

Earlier this week, State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said investigators did not examine McCray's vehicle to see if it had any modifications that would have boosted its speed.

Smash and grab

Police in Anne Arundel County charged McCray in three separate store burglary cases last year after studying surveillance footage and matching DNA left at an earlier Queen Anne's County crime scene, according to the statements of charges.

The day he was killed, McCray had been scheduled to appear in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis for a status hearing on those cases, Heather Stone, a spokesperson for the county State's Attorney's Office confirmed. When he did not appear, a warrant was issued, after which the prosecutor handling McCray's case learned he had been killed in Harford County, she said.

According to the Anne Arundel County charging documents, in his Nov. 1, 2013 report on an August 2013 burglary at an AT&T Store in Severn and a September 2013 burglary at a Target in Laurel, the investigating officer noted that a series of other burglaries in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia had taken place "with matching surveillance to that of the above two incidents."

The investigator also noted the "DNA hit" from the Queen Anne's case "that was similar in modis operandi" to the two Anne Arundel cases, according to the charging documents.

Police caught up with McCray in Bowie, in Prince George's County, on Sept. 17, 2013, when the Anne Arundel investigator, identified in charging documents as Det. Jonathan Hardesty, talked with McCray in the company of Det. Kathleen O'Leary of the Fairfax County, Va., Police Department.

"Mr. McCray denied any involvement in" the burglaries, charging documents state.

A search warrant was issued for McCray's car, a 1996 Honda Accord, in which investigators found a number of electronic devices and accessories, including seven iPod Touches, a pair of Beats headphones, two Samsung cell phone chargers and items that allegedly could be used during burglaries such as a pry bar, a trash bag, black gloves and a blue and black jacket the burglary suspect had been seen wearing in surveillance footage, according to charging documents.

"It should be noted, there was also pieces of broken glass located inside Mr. McCray's vehicle that appeared to be pieces of broken glass from large window shatters," Hardesty wrote in the statement of charges.

In addition to the Severn AT&T store and the Laurel Target burglaries, McCray was charged in connection with an August 2013 burglary of an AT&T Store in Annapolis and a burglary of a Target in Glen Burnie in September 2013, according to charging documents.

McCray also had been due in Queen Anne's County Circuit Court in Centreville on March 27 for a hearing on burglary charges he was facing in that county. Lt. Dale Patrick, public information officer for the Queen Anne's County Sheriff's Office, said McCray was arrested last September on a warrant in connection with a Feb. 13, 2013 "smash and grab" robbery at a Radio Shack in Stevensville.

An estimated $3,600 worth of iPhones and iPads were taken, Patrick said in a telephone interview, referring to charging documents. McCray twice bailed out on the Queen Anne's County case, according to online court records, most recently on Jan. 6, when bail was set at $25,000.

McCray was also facing charges of second-degree burglary, fourth-degree burglary, theft and vandalism in Calvert County from a September 2013 incident, according to online court records. He was out on bond with a jury trial scheduled May 13 in Circuit Court in Prince Frederick, according to court records.

One Maryland conviction

In July 2011, McCray was indicted in Charles County on second-degree burglary, theft, vandalism and theft scheme charges in connection with a November 2010 incident, according to court records.

He pleaded guilty to the burglary charge in May 2012 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with nine years suspended. He received credit for 37 days already served in jail, as well as five years' probation. The other three charges were dropped.

On March 19, a petition was filed with the Circuit Court in LaPlata to revoke McCray's probation, and a warrant for his arrest was issued two days later, the same day McCray was killed.

Diane Richardson, who handles media relations for the Charles County Sheriff's Office, said the warrant was returned on March 26 with the notation that the subject, McCray, was deceased as of March 21.

According to charging documents, on Nov. 27, 2010, an AT&T store in Waldorf was burglarized by someone who entered by breaking out glass in the side door. Taken were 46 Bluetooth devices, earpieces and speakers valued at $4,600, an Acer laptop valued at $600, a Samsung Galaxy Touch pad valued at $650 and a BlackBerry phone valued at $265.

The burglar was shown on store surveillance video, but was gone before police arrived, according to the charging documents; however, a brick was left behind which investigators believed was used to smash the window and a DNA analysis was requested from the Charles County Sheriff's Office's Forensic Science Unit.

The following March, the lab notified investigators of a "positive 'hit' from the National DNA Database match between a Virginia Dept. of Forensic Science convicted offender (Rajsaun A. McCray) and to the AT&T burglary," the charging documents state, noting the sample DNA from Charles County was from the brick recovered at the scene of the robbery.

"Defendant McCray is a convicted felon from Virginia and his DNA had been collected previously," the changing documents add.

David Chapman, a lawyer in LaPlata, who represented McCray in the 2012 case, said he did not have any recent information about McCray and did not realize the man whom police shot near Aberdeen appeared to be his former client.

Chapman recalled McCray as being from Washington and possibly living with a girlfriend. Other than remembering him as "a nice looking fellow," about 5 feet, 7 or 8 inches tall and weighing 145-150 pounds, the lawyer said he couldn't think of anything particularly remarkable about his ex-client.

Chapman said the burglary case had "worked out well" for McCray in terms of the deal they were able to make.

"It was a strange case," he said. "It was based on collection and matching of DNA. I haven't seen a lot of those cases. To me [the prosecution's case] was sort of magical."

"So they had this brick with his DNA, go figure," Chapman said. He said he argued anyone could have touched the brick, but it didn't mean they had thrown it at anything. "I told them it was a million to one it was this guy [McCray]; I'm probably not exaggerating."

Chapman recalls McCray was on work release during his time in jail. Court records show he was released on Sept. 19, 2012.

The quarter mile

McCray was known as "Rocky" among drag racers on the southern Maryland and Virginia circuits, where his accomplishments in races and car shows earned him acclaim from the Quarter Mile Brothers racing group, which was formed to highlight the accomplishments of African-American racers around the United States.

The operators of the web site, who could not be reached for comment despite several attempts, posted a message of condolence in the days following McCray's death. Attempts to reach other racers who may have known McCray also were unsuccessful.

The QMB home page had a photo of McCray and the white 1968 Camaro with a red-and-white racing stripe on the front, which he drove in various races at tracks such as Capitol Raceway in Anne Arundel County and the Maryland International Raceway in St. Mary's County.

"QMB is sadden[ed] to report the passing of fellow racer RAJSAUN "ROCKY" MCCRAY," the post stated. "Rocky passed away on Friday, March 21, 2014. Our thoughts and pray[er]s go out to his family and friends."

Royce Miller, track owner at Maryland International Raceway, said he had spoken to McCray "briefly in the staging lanes" during races at the track. The track owner noted Maryland International Raceway typically attracts 700 to 800 racers during its weekend events.

The Quarter Mile Brothers bestowed their honor of "Last Brother Standing" upon McCray, when he went as far as a semi-final round during the $5K Raiders ET Challenge event held Sept. 8, 2013 at Maryland International Raceway.

McCray also went to the semi-finals during the War on Wheels II Race held July 17, 2013, also at the Maryland International Raceway.

Miller described McCray as "always a very intense, competitive racer that enjoyed doing what he was doing."

He said track operators "never" had any problems with McCray and he "always obeyed the rules."

"I'm sorry to hear of his passing," Miller said. "I'm obviously a little shocked at the circumstances."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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