Shotgun-toting robbers possibly linked to dozens of holdups at area restaurants and supermarkets held up two north Baltimore food markets within a mile of each other last night and escaped with an unknown amount of cash.
In one of last night's robberies, a bandit fired a blast from a shotgun held about a foot away from the store manager's head. The manager was not injured.
Dennis Hill, a city police spokesman, said today that his agency is conferring with police investigators in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties where robbers with sawed-off, pump-action shotguns and a semiautomatic handgun have struck businesses and pedestrians since late last year.
In the first robbery last night, four men, three armed with sawed-off shotguns and the fourth with a semiautomatic handgun, entered the Super Fresh store in the 600 block of Gorsuch Ave. in Waverly about 8:20 p.m. and ordered several employees and customers to lie on the floor.
But a female customer ran from the store and eventually flagged down a passing police car. The officer broadcast a request for the Quick Response Team.
In the meantime, the bandits went to the store's office and ordered the manager to give them money from the safe, police said.
The bandit fired one shot from his shotgun.
"He kicked the door open and told me to get my nose on the floor," the manager said today. "I had put the money in a bag, I followed his instructions to the letter."
The shotgun was fired about a foot from his head, said the manager, who said he served with the First Infantry Division in the Vietnam War.
The bandits then ordered the manager to give them money from the cash registers, police said. The men then fled.
A short time later, heavily armed members of the Quick Response Team arrived. While they were at the Waverly store, police received a report that the Basics food store at 5315 York Road in Govans was robbed by two men, one armed with a handgun and the other with a sawed-off shotgun.
Police said the men entered the store about 8:45 p.m., grabbed an employee and forced her to accompany them to the manager's office, where the robbers ordered the manager to give them money.
Before the men fled the store, they robbed a customer, Jefferson Livingston, 34, of the 600 block of McCabe Ave., of a set of keys, police said.
Police said that in last night's incidents, no get-away car was seen, but that one obviously was used.
"These guys are definitely people we have to get a hold of," Hill said.
"The way these robberies are being committed, the weapons involved and the way the criminals move indicates a strong possibility that most of these armed holdups are being done by the same group of men."
Although one of last night's robberies was committed by two men, police believe the two may be members of the gang suspected in the other holdups, including last Thursday's robbery of Chi-Chi's restaurant in Timonium that netted more than $800 in cash and jewelry.
While shots have been fired during some of the robberies, no injuries have occurred.
On Saturday, acting on information from city police, State Police at Baltimore-Washington International Airport arrested Thomas Isaac Smith, 25, of the 2600 block of Ridgely St. in Westport in South Baltimore, as he returned a car to a rental company at BWI.
County police charged Smith with the Feb. 15 robbery of the Super Pride market in the 7400 block of Liberty Road during which two armed men forced the store manager to open the safe, while two others removed money from a cash register.
The robbers fled with more than $5,000 in cash.
County police said the Super Pride robbery was similar to recent holdups at food stores and other businesses in the county and city.
Smith is being held at the county Detention Center in lieu of $150,000 bail, police said.
Police said Smith is on parole until 1993 after serving five years in prison for attempted murder and handgun violations.