Two state troopers were praised yesterday for their perseverance in turning a traffic stop into an arrest of a still-unidentified man, and confiscating a dangerous stash of weapons from a secret compartment in the back of his car.
The troopers found a mini-Uzi submachine gun loaded with 30 rounds, a Cobray .380 submachine gun with a laser sight and silencer, and a .38-caliber handgun when they searched the 1987 Lincoln Continental about 10:30 a.m. Thursday on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
"Their perseverance led to the arrest," State Police Superintendent David B. Mitchell said of Troopers John K. Hasenei and Daniel P. McLain at a news conference attended by Gov. Parris N. Glendening at the Glen Burnie barracks.
The suspect used several aliases and has yet to be positively identified. He has been charged with three counts of transporting a handgun, two counts of possession of an assault pistol, two counts of transporting an assault pistol into the state, two counts of removing serial numbers from a firearm, and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Trooper Hasenei, who was operating a radar gun, stopped the southbound car on suspicion of speeding on the parkway near Route 175. He questioned the man, who first said the car bearing New York tags was his, then said it belonged to someone else.
"I immediately had a conflicting statement right there," said Trooper Hasenei, 28, a five-year veteran of the force. The man gave the name of another man whose driver's license was suspended in New York, and Trooper Hasenei arrested him.
Trooper Hasenei called in Trooper McLain to help search the car. First, they found a marijuana pipe. A drug-sniffing dog brought in later indicated that there had been marijuana in the car recently, Trooper Hasenei said.
Trooper Hasenei raised the back seat and found "a 9 mm round rolling around on the floor."
He lowered the arm rest, exposing a panel that had been cut out. Trooper Hasenei then searched the trunk while Trooper McLain continued a search of the back seat.
As the troopers tapped on the trunk and the back seat, they realized that they had stumbled onto a hidden compartment. When they opened it, they found the arms cache.
Colonel Mitchell estimated that it cost $3,000 to have the compartment made. Some shops specialize in making such compartments, he said.
Mr. Glendening decried the ease with which such a deadly arsenal could fall into the hands of criminals. "These guns were brought to Maryland to kill people," he said. "I am outraged by this act.
Even the staunchest defender of the Second Amendment can't convince me that these weapons should be on the street within the reach of criminals."
Trooper McLain, 22, who has been on the force for a year, said that people who transport weapons put much time and effort into building hidden compartments. "The sad thing is there are a lot more of these out there," he said.