Terror and confusion at the Cockeysville Sizzler the day after Christmas were described yesterday as testimony began in the trial of the first of four defendants charged in a robbery and shooting that cost a 29-year-old employee of the restaurant his life.
John Dwayne Tillman lost his life because of the four robbers' impatience, jurors were told in Baltimore County Circuit Court. The employee was shot in the left eye by a gunman who wanted him to point out the manager, according to the testimony.
On trial on 17 counts of murder, armed robbery, robbery and use of a handgun is William Francis Tyler-el, 44, of the 3800 block of Belle Ave. While he isn't accused of actually shooting Mr. Tillman, prosecutors say he joined in the robbery and thus is legally responsible for its fatal consequences. The man accused of being the shooter and two other defendants are to be tried later.
The robbers entered the restaurant in the 10100 block of York Road about 8:30 p.m. Dec. 26, dressed in black and wearing gloves and stocking masks, witnesses said.
The first of 11 victims on the stand was Richard A. Reif Jr., 47, of Furlong, Pa., president and chief executive officer of the Doylestown Hospital and Health Foundation. He was in the restaurant with his wife, mother-in-law and three children when the gunmen entered.
"One came to our table with a gun in his hand and pointed it at us," he recalled. As they were ordered to the center of the restaurant, Mr. Reif said, "I heard a single shot."
"As we moved near the pasta and salad bar, I noticed a lot of the employees under the tables in there, especially the young waitresses under the table, cowering and screaming."
Mr. Tillman lay face up, and "I saw he had a bullet in his head and was bleeding profusely," Mr. Reif testified. The robbers fled within minutes, witnesses said, but they took a few more wallets after the shooting.
Owings Mills accountant Myron Asher, 41, and his wife Ellen, 38, a nursery school teacher, said they were at the table nearest the doorway, preparing to leave when a gunman ordered them to sit down. Mrs. Asher attempted to flee with her two children and their friend and got as far as the vestibule, she said, when one of the robbers ordered, "Get back in here."
"I just kept screaming over and over, 'Please don't hurt my children,' " she recalled. The man warned her, "Keep those kids quiet."
Mignon Atkins, a state social worker, said she was robbed of about $27. Then, when Mr. Tillman was shot, she said, the robber "rushed over and looked at the man on the floor and said some profanity and that no one was supposed to be killed, and they rushed out."
Travis Christopher Call, 20, of La Plata, who was an employee, said that a gunman brought Mr. Tillman out from the kitchen and ordered everyone to get down. "He was asking, 'Who is it?' I can only infer that he was asking who was the manager. John did respond: His hands were up and he nodded with his head.
"John was real smooth and cool. . . . The guy let go of John and walked towards where John had pointed and said, 'Who, this?' . . . and John said, 'Nah, not him,' real calm, and the person basically stepped up on John, got right up almost in his face . . . and shot him."
Mr. Call was followed to the witness stand by his sister, waitress Kelley Anne Call, 23, of Cockeysville, who told the jury how she got under a table with other employees. She said she heard the killer say, "Oh, you want to play dumb?" Then, she said, "He shot him in the head."
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Robert Lee Berry, 26, of the 3100 block of Sequoia Ave., accused of shooting Mr. Tillman with a .38-caliber revolver.
The other co-defendants are Aaron Delano Evans, 21, of the 1500 block of Lochwood Road and his cousin, Wayne Alphonzo Brooks, 22, of the 3700 block of W. Coldspring Lane.