Two young children watched helplessly last night as their grandmother was shot to death and robbed of her purse on the Westview Mall parking lot, Baltimore County police said.
The victim, Jane F. Tyson, 49, of the 6500 block of Redgate Circle in Westview Park, had returned about 8:30 p.m. to her car parked on a remote rear lot after shopping with the children at the mall near the Beltway on Baltimore National Pike.
A witness told police he heard the children -- a 6-year-old boy pTC and his 4-year-old sister -- crying out that their grandmother had been shot.
The witness saw two suspected robbers fleeing in a Chevy Blazer and sped after them in his car "long enough to get a tag number," said a police spokesman, Sgt. Stephen Doarnberger.
County Officers Frank D. Barile and Nicholas J. McGowan spotted the Blazer heading into the city on U.S. 40 and saw a passenger get out after they turned on the cruiser's emergency lights.
The officers pursued the Blazer a short distance as it turned left from Edmondson Avenue onto Old Frederick Road, where the driver was arrested on a restaurant parking lot a block away.
Meanwhile, Woodlawn Precinct Officer James P. Conaboy caught the other suspect, who was fleeing on foot.
The spokesman said a gun was found inside the Blazer. Mrs. Tyson's purse and a trail of its contents were found on the ground, between the vehicle and the site of the passenger's arrest, he said. There was no immediate word on how much money the purse contained.
The suspects -- who police said were to be charged today with first-degree murder, armed robbery and use of a handgun in commission of a felony -- were described as a 34-year-old man who lives near Woodlawn and a 33-year-old man who lives on Homestead Street in Baltimore.
Neighbors of Mrs. Tyson, a teacher's aide for Baltimore County public schools, were stunned at news of the slaying. They said they often her saw walking with her grandchildren or playing with them outside.
"It's a shock," said Thomas H. Ireland Jr., who lived next door to the victim and her husband, John Tyson, principal at Johnnycake Elementary School, in their neighborhood about a mile north of the shopping center.
"I knew her well for the last 10 years. I am shocked. It's hard to put in words . . . they were just people who were there for you when you needed help."
He described Mrs. Tyson as "a very upbeat person. She enjoyed what she did as a wife, a mother and a grandmother. She was a classic nice person and a good neighbor."
He said the Tysons would generally keep to themselves but were friendly and would watch the houses of their neighbors when asked.
Stephen C. Collins, who has lived across the street from the victim and her husband for the past five years, described Mrs. Tyson as "very nice."
He said she was frequently seen doting over her grandchildren. "They were always over here," he said.
Sergeant Doarnberger said the children may have been the only witnesses to the actual robbery. "I don't know how much [detectives] are going to be able to get from them tonight," he said.
The shooting was reminiscent of an incident at the mall last Sept. 8 when Katherine Dwyer, a Baltimore teacher, was shot and robbed.