Two men who allegedly broke into and burglarized the Dunkin' Donuts and Main Street Cigar store near Harford Community College early Friday morning were under surveillance by officers from the Howard County Police Department when the crimes occurred, according to court records.
The men, one of whom remains at large, also are suspected in commercial burglaries in multiple states, according to court records.
Following the 4 a.m. break-ins at the two businesses on Route 22, Harford County Sheriff's Office deputies, assisted by Maryland State Police, spent most of Friday searching the area for the suspects, one of whom, Harold E. Carter Jr., was found five hours later in a car with two other people, less than two miles from the break-ins, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Carter and the other two occupants of the car, Crystal Ann Marie Hughes and Asia Marie Foreman were arrested. All have addresses in New Jersey near Philadelphia.
The second suspect in the break-ins, Blaze L. Hollingsworth, 24, of Camden, N.J., managed to elude police, despite cell phone tracking that indicated he was still in the area around 9 a.m., according to charging documents. He still has not been found. Anyone with information is asked to call 911.
Schools locked down
Police searched for Hollingsworth, who was said to be "armed and dangerous" within a two-mile radius of the crime scene for much of the day Friday, abandoning the search about 8 p.m.
Six schools within the search perimeter were put on lockdown as a precautionary measure, according to the Sheriff's Office, with all of them dismissing on time without incident. The lockdowns were lifted at 3:15 p.m.
Harford Community College remained open, but the college's security director closely monitored the situation through police, an HCC spokesperson said.
The Sheriff's Office was notified at 4:11 a.m. Friday of a burglary at Main Street Cigar in the 2200 block of Churchville Road, where responding deputies saw that a glass door has been shattered. They saw a suspect run out of the business and away from the area, according to charging documents.
A second burglary was reported at Dunkin' Donuts across the parking lot, where a glass front door was also smashed.
Both break-ins were witnessed by detectives from the Howard County Police Department, who had gotten information, including cell phone numbers of Carter and Hollingsworth, from New Jersey State Police detectives, according to charging documents. The information about the suspects was provided to New Jersey State Police by registered confidential informants, according to charging documents.
Howard County Police suspected Carter and Hollingsworth in the burglary last month of Subway and Dunkin' Donuts in Laurel, Sherry Llewellyn, director of public affairs for the police department, wrote in an email Tuesday.
Carter and Hollingsworth were tracked Friday by Howard County Police to the 2200 block of Churchville Road, where the Howard County officers began conducting visual surveillance.
According to Llewellyn, the Harford Sheriff's Office was made aware Howard detectives were watching the two men.
"Howard County detectives were working with Harford County deputies," Llewellyn wrote.
The Howard detectives watched two men approach the Dunkin' Donuts, according to charging documents.
"Once the Howard County Police detectives observed the suspects and the impending crimes were apparent, Harford County Sheriff's Office was notified," Cristie Kahler, spokesperson for the Harford sheriff's office, said Tuesday.
Llewellyn said Harford deputies were notified when the Howard deputies saw the suspects enter Harford County, according to her email.
Fled while being watched
"The two agencies were collaborating, but the suspects fled before they would be arrested," Llewellyn said.
One of the men smashed the window of Dunkin' Donuts, while the other ran to the cigar shop and smashed the front window there, according to the charging documents.
A man in dark clothes, wearing gloves and a hood, was caught on surveillance video inside the store during that time frame.
Howard County detectives saw two suspects run off when a Harford County sheriff's deputy arrived, according to charging documents.
Kahler said Harford deputies arrived at the scene as the two suspects were fleeing the area in different directions.
"It is important to note that you had two active burglary incidents occurring at the same time. To safely apprehend the suspects, it was imperative to have back-up assistance," Kahler said.
She also noted that had Howard detectives not been following Carter and Hollingsworth, sheriff's deputies wouldn't have had the information they did and otherwise would not have responded until the alarm sounded or when the business owners came to work the next day. In which case, Kahler said, the suspects might have gotten away entirely.
As it was, she said, three of the four people allegedly involved were arrested.
The Howard County detectives could not have arrested the burglary suspects, Kahler added.
"To make an arrest, as a law enforcement officer, outside of your jurisdiction, the officer must have the appropriate permissions to act under the authority of the presiding agency," she said.
The Sheriff's Office immediately began searching for the two men and shortly thereafter found a burgundy Mercury Marquis with a New Jersey license plate, unoccupied with the driver's side door partially open, in the first block of Meadow Spring Drive in Bel Air, about a half mile from the burglaries.
The car was registered to a woman who New Jersey State Police said is "a known associate" of Carter's, according to court records.
Continuing to monitor Carter's and Hollingsworth's phones, police said both were still "in the immediate area of the burglaries," according to charging documents.
Around 9:10 a.m., Carter was found in a vehicle in the 800 block of Schucks Road in Bel Air, less than 1.5 miles from the burglaries. The vehicle was being driven by Hughes, 27, of Camden, and also occupied by Foreman, 24, of Clementon, N.J., according to charging documents. The vehicle is registered to Hughes' mother.
Carter, Hughes and Foreman are each charged with two counts of second-degree burglary, theft $1,000 to $10,000 and vandalism less than $1,000.
During a bail review hearing in Bel Air Monday, District Court Judge Victor Butanis ordered that Carter, who was being held on $150,000 bail, be held without bail. Carter has five arrests and three convictions in New Jersey, according to Assistant Harford County State's Attorney Salvatore Fili.
Butanis increased bail from $100,000 to $150,000 for Hughes, a certified home health aid, who said her address in Camden, N.J., is where she has lived with her mother for 26 years.
Fili told Butanis considered charging Hughes with conspiracy and accessory to the crimes, in addition to the other charges she is facing.
"She gave conflicting stories as to who she was with, how she got there," he said.
Hughes told detectives she and Carter and Foreman were on their way to a casino, though she could not say which one. Foreman was navigating while Hughes drove, according to charging documents.
Hughes' mother, Tonetta Mercado, who was with her brother inside the courtroom for Hughes' bail review, said later that her daughter wasn't at the crime scene.
"I can prove she wasn't there," Mercado said outside the courtroom. "I picked her up at her job at 6:30 in the morning. She used my car to pick [Carter] up."
Mercado declined to say anything further.
Howard County Police electronic surveillance placed Carter's phone in the area of the burglaries around 7:30 a.m., according to the court records.
Following his arrest, Carter refused to be interviewed by police.
Foreman, who was released $100,000 bond Friday, told police she and Carter and Hughes left her home in New Jersey around 7:30 a.m. Friday to go to a casino, but got lost, according to charging documents. She said Hughes was navigating and driving.
Carter and Hollingsworth allegedly stole $2,200 cash from an office in Dunkin' Donuts and $1,500 cash from a safe at Main Street Cigar. Damages to the businesses were estimated at $400 and $300, respectively, according to the charging documents.