Two Elkton teen-agers commandeered a Maryland State Police car early yesterday and drove to Atlantic City, N.J., where they used it to rob a bystander and then plunged it into an inlet near a casino, police said.
Police said the teen-agers reported they listened to urgent police radio bulletins about their theft as they drove through southern New Jersey.
They used the cruiser's flashing emergency lights to stop a bystander near Atlantic City and rob him of $10 for gasoline, said Detective Stacy Tappeiner, of the Hamilton Township police near Atlantic City.
After filling the car up with gasoline, the youths drove the cruiser down a boat ramp into Absecon Inlet and fled to a nearby casino, where they called police and turned themselves in, New Jersey police said.
Charged in two southern New Jersey districts with robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of a stolen automobile are Larry G. Barton III, 19, of Willow Drive in Elkton, and a 16-year-old juvenile, police said yesterday.
The teen-agers also will be charged with automobile theft in Maryland, said Lt. Gregory M. Shipley, state police spokesman.
The cruiser, a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, is valued at $5,000, Lieutenant Shipley said.
It was towed yesterday to the state police barracks in Cecil County, where it will be examined for damage, he said.
"It's quite unusual," Lieutenant Shipley said of the theft. "Why did they do it? It's a question we can't answer now. We just don't know."
The cruiser was stolen at 3:30 a.m. when Mr. Barton and the juvenile were seated inside the vehicle being questioned about a car fire on Willow Drive in Elkton by Tfc. Richard O. Bates, authorities said.
When Trooper Bates left the cruiser to speak with an arson investigator, Mr. Barton moved into the driver's seat and drove away, Lieutenant Shipley said.
A search of the area by police K-9 units, a state police helicopter and other state police cruisers failed to locate the car.
Atlantic City Police Capt. Al Rongione said police received a call from Mr. Barton at 6:35 a.m. yesterday from the Showboat casino. The youth confessed to stealing the cruiser and said the car was partially submerged on a boat ramp in the inlet, Captain Rongione said.
Atlantic City police arrested the teen-agers at the casino. Bail for Mr. Barton was being determined last night, Captain Rongione said, while bail for the juvenile will be determined today.
Captain Rongione said Mr. Barton told Atlantic City police that he and the juvenile attempted to steal a car in Elkton yesterday morning for a joy ride. When their efforts to start the car failed, they said they set it on fire, he said.
While being questioned near the burning car, Captain Rongione said, the youths panicked and stole the police cruiser.