Police have arrested a suspected ringleader of a brazen teen-age car theft gang and charged him with the attempted murder of two Baltimore County detectives last month.
Odis Green, 16, of the 2400 block of W. Lombard St. was denied bail yesterday after Baltimore City police spotted him in a red car early Monday and arrested him near the scene of an unrelated shooting in the Walbrook section of the city.
The Green youth, who had eluded police for months after escaping from guards employed by the Charles B. Hickey School, was charged with six counts of attempted murder. The charges were contained in outstanding warrants issued last month after the driver of a stolen car tried to run down county detectives who had spotted the vehicle in West Baltimore.
The youth was not charged until yesterday because he refused to cooperate with investigators and gave them false information about his identity, police said.
Investigators believe they now have one of the leaders of a violent gang of rootless West Baltimore teen-agers who have stolen hundreds of expensive cars from Baltimore County's Green Spring Valley, Owings Mills and Towson neighborhoods since the spring.
The gang, with members as young as 13, is arrogant and well-organized, with experienced members training new recruits, police say.
The Green youth's arrest came about two weeks after city and county authorities -- backed by a $500,000 grant and the promise of a special prosecutor -- formed a 14-member task force to deal with the problem. Although young Green's arrest was not part of their efforts, police said they have recovered 13 stolen cars and arrested eight other suspects, mostly gang members, since the task force convened.
Investigators say they now believe that a second group of teen-age car thieves operating from the Pimlico section of Northwest Baltimore is operating in the county.
A city police spokeswoman said the Green youth was a passenger in a late-model red Pontiac Grand Am that was carrying suspects in a shootout that occurred at 1:30 a.m. Monday in the 1900 block of Walbrook Ave.
After a brief car and foot chase, police caught Green in the 2600 block of Warwick Ave, along with Shonta Robinson, 18, identified as the driver of the car. Mr. Robinson and the Green youth were charged with handgun violations and with discharging a firearm in connection with the Walbrook shooting. City police could not provide details of the incident. Two loaded 9-mm magazines were recovered from the Pontiac, but police found no weapon.
When young Green was finally identified, police charged him on the outstanding attempted murder warrants, according to Officer Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a city police spokeswoman.
City police said the car they were using, registered to Renn Kirby Pontiac in Frederick, had not been reported stolen at the time of the arrests. Jack Lord, the dealership's general manager, said last night that he did not know the car had been taken.
Police say members of the Walbrook gang usually use stolen cars for a few days -- generally to commit other crimes such as narcotics transactions or robberies -- then ditch them and steal another vehicle. Less often, the stolen cars wind up in "chop shops," where they're dismantled and their parts are sold.
While car theft has been one of the fastest growing crimes of the decade across the nation, local police say they have been particularly impressed by the Walbrook gang's discipline and boldness. As an example, they say, gang members stole two cars warming up on the same Baltimore County driveway in December.
Baltimore County Police Lt. Michael J. DiPaula, commander of the new task force, says he hopes the joint effort will hurt the gang.
"The gang remains active in the Green Spring Valley corridor, but we feel far more confident solving this problem with the arrest Monday of the leader and a major commitment to catching the others," he said.
Within the next several weeks, Lieutenant DiPaula said, a special prosecutor will be assigned to work with the task force. "That person will be able to follow through with the people we arrest and prosecute, his or her entire time will be devoted to putting a real dent in this problem," he said.
The salary for the special prosecutor, who will work out of the Baltimore County state's attorney's office, will be paid from a $500,000 state grant from the Maryland Crime Prevention Council. Funds will also be used for more computer equipment, rental cars, overtime pay, training and prevention programs.
"This is a new breed of auto thieves," Lieutenant DiPaula said at the task force's office in the Woodlawn precinct. "These teen-agers are brazen and have no fear of being prosecuted or getting hurt. And they have stepped up the violence."
The Green youth, arrested Monday, is charged as being one of two teen-agers who tried to run down county detectives and rammed a county undercover car Dec. 21 in the 2600 block of W. North Ave.
Detectives Steven King and Peter Hanlon were prowling West Baltimore, looking for five cars that had been stolen in the county over a 30-minute period. They spotted a stolen Acura and the youths in the car spotted them.
Police said that when the two officers jumped from their cruiser, the driver of the stolen car tried to run them down.
Another detective, Thomas Lau, reported that the youth in the passenger's seat pointed a handgun at the police, who had identified themselves as officers.
When he heard a bang, he said, he fired his own handgun at the Acura, shattering the rear window, but the Acura rammed the police car and then sped off.