A special police team today flushed out a heavily armed group of robbers from a Pimlico food market after an all-night standoff during which no shots were fired and no one was injured.
Instead, officers from the Quick Response Team used psychology, keeping the suspects awake while heavily armed Quick Response Team members conducted a methodical search of the sprawling building.
The tense barricade ended today at 8:20 a.m. after three men were arrested and three weapons were seized. A fourth suspect, believed carrying a shotgun, escaped when the robbers were first detected last night.
Police said they recovered a MAC-10 rapid-fire weapon, a 9-mm semiautomatic handgun and a .357 Magnum revolver.
Police said that there was no gunfire during the siege because the specially trained officers used time and patience to wait out the suspects.
"We never want to be a catalyst for violence," said Maj. John Wagner, commander of the department's Tactical Section.
"Our job is to contain and wait. We try to give them the opportunity to surrender until we might reach a point of diminished returns. Our paramount philosophy is not to get my people or citizens hurt."
Major Wagner would not comment on the psychological ploy of noise, used by the U.S. special forces that invaded Panama in 1989. They played blaring rock music to confuse Panamanian troops outside the villa where Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega was holed up.
Police last night and early today used powerful bullhorns every 10 or 15 minutes to address the hidden suspects, and K-9 dogs were kept barking inside the market as a constant reminder of police presence.
The standoff began shortly after the 9:20 p.m. robbery of the Super Pride food market in the 3700 block of W. Belvedere Ave. when police arrested an armed suspect as he attempted to flee.
Two others hid inside the market while a fourth man escaped in the confusion.
One man surrendered at 5:30 a.m. today and the other at 6:10 a.m. Both were taken to the Northwestern District station, where each was charged with assault and robbery, weapons charges and assault by pointing. The man arrested earlier faces the same charges. Other charges were expected to be filed.
The three are Kenneth Kevin Talley, 24, of no known address; his brother, Matthew Talley, 26, of the 4800 block of Park Heights Ave.; and Gary Milan McClone, 26, of the 5300 block of Beaufort Ave.
Police first thought the two men were hiding in the basement since the storeroom and drop ceiling had been searched earlier and declared "clean." However, one was hiding most of the time in the drop ceiling on the main floor of the store while another hid atop a refrigerator on the main floor, police said.
Two of the weapons -- the MAC-10 and .357 Magnum -- were found behind a refrigerator and a pile of boxes in the basement.
Police also recovered a large canvas bag that was loaded with money, checks and coins. The bag was so heavy it took two policemen to carry it to the trunk of a patrol car.
The robbery began when four men entered the store shortly before the 9 p.m. closing time and walked around as though they were shopping.
A customer who was about to leave saw the men put on rubber surgical gloves shortly before they approached the manager's office.
The customer left the store and flagged down a police car.
Four men bolted out the front door just as the officer pulled onto the lot.
Police arrested one man, identified as Mr. McClone. Taken from the man was a bank bag containing cash and a 9mm handgun.
A second man escaped while the two others ran back into the store.
Police said the manager and two plainclothes security officers saw the men re-enter the store and head for the back.
Store employees then ran out the front door.
Shortly after the first of nearly 30 police officers arrived and surrounded the building, officers went to the rear and heard someone trying to open a locked door from the inside. "We knew then" that the men were trapped in the store, said Lt. Walter A. Taylor.
Lieutenant Taylor said the rear doors had been locked shortly before the robbers entered the store.
Within minutes of the aborted robbery, dozens of officers were dispatched to the scene to reinforce the first police officers who arrived there.
Once the exterior was sealed off, heavily armed district officers and two hostage negotiators entered the store in an effort to get the two men to surrender.
A bullhorn was used but police received no response.
When efforts to reach the men failed and a brief search of the public shopping area failed to find the men, the Quick Response Team -- police armed with shotguns and assault rifles and specially trained -- entered the building at 11:30 p.m.
"The QRT men then started to search the floor in grids in order to secure areas as they proceeded," police spokesman Sam Ringgold said.
After the shopping area and store office were declared safe, the officers entered the heavily-stocked rear storeroom. It, too, was searched and secured.
Next, the officers climbed into the crawl-space above the drop ceiling. For more than two hours, that area was carefully searched but the suspect who hid there part of the time evaded them.
Around 1 a.m., the team of 10 QRT officers carrying Mini 14 assault rifles, shotguns and 9mm handguns, entered the full basement of the food store.
On at least one occasion, a policeman saw one of the suspects but was unable to reach him.
"He had a white shirt on and I caught a glimpse of him as he was trying to conceal himself," the officer said. The suspect was able to temporarily elude capture.
While the store was being searched, police with high-powered sniper rifles equipped with telescopic sights took up positions on the roofs of nearby buildings, including the Bel-Park Towers, a senior citizens' center near the food store, in case the men made it to the store's roof.
For nearly an hour, a police helicopter flew above the store, illuminating the roof with its searchlight.
As the methodical search continued, crowds of bystanders stood at the edge of the secured area waiting for something to happen.
One man said the scene reminded him of the gangster film "High Sierra," during which Humphrey Bogart, who played a gunman, eluded police by taking refuge in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
"In the movie," the onlooker said, "they shot Bogart."