'Homicide' actors deliver an arresting performance Shoplift suspect surrenders to pair portraying officers

Richard Belzer and Clark Johnson aren't real Baltimore cops, they just play them on TV.

But the two cast members of "Homicide: Life on the Street" got a taste of real street life yesterday when a man suspected of shoplifting at a North Avenue pharmacy crashed the set during a rehearsal of an arrest scene and surrendered to them.


"Oh, no," the man was heard to say as he dropped what he was carrying -- about $100 worth of Polaroid film, police said. He then raised his hands and stood there.

The "officers," with guns drawn, were standing over an actor portraying a murder suspect and lying spread-eagled on the concrete pavement in the 1700 block of Lovegrove St. They looked at each other with that "Now what do I do?" look on their faces.


The "officers" were all actors.

The intruder had surrendered to a bunch of performers, none of whom was prepared or willing to arrest the man, who continued standing in their midst.

"The Screen Actors Guild bylaws says I don't have to arrest anyone," quipped Belzer, who portrays Detective John Munch.

"If he's convicted," said Johnson, who plays Detective Meldrick Lewis, "the judge should drop the theft charge and send him away for being stupid."

A production crew member said, "They give out Emmys for the best TV shows; this guy should get time."

Real police officers, who were working overtime nearby as security for the production crew, arrived moments later and took charge of the suspect, a 36-year-old man from the 1500 block of Ashland Ave.

The suspect, whose name not immediately available, was taken to the Central District station house and charged with shoplifting, said Terrill Lawrence, 26, a security officer at the Rite-Aid store in the first block of W. North Ave.

Lawrence chased the suspect from the store about 5:15 p.m.


Lawrence said he followed the suspect east on Trenton Street and had rounded the corner at Lovegrove Street when he saw Marcos Velez, 25, who serves as a bodyguard for the actors, holding onto the suspect.

"The suspect more or less fell apart when he entered onto the set, thinking he had run into a bunch of real police," said the muscular Velez, who turned the suspect over to Lawrence.

Velez said the suspect may have seen old police cars used as props on the set and parked in the area, and decided to make Trenton Street instead of the busy Charles Street his escape route.

After wrapping up the arrest scene, Belzer, Johnson and the crew moved to railroad tracks next to Pennsylvania Station, where they filmed another scene.

Yesterday was the second time the TV show played a role in an arrest. Last spring, a purse-snatch suspect was arrested by city police providing security when he ran onto the set on South Broadway in Fells Point, said Jeffrey Gordon, an assistant prop manager.

Pub Date: 10/08/96