Thief possibly took train to throw police off track Getaway: A suspect in a downtown bank robbery may have boarded a southbound Amtrak car to elude officers.


A Washington-bound Amtrak train may have provided a quick getaway for a man who held up a downtown bank yesterday as police officers swarmed in and around Penn Station in a futile search for the suspect.

Police shut down the North Charles Street station for 15 minutes as they scoured the platforms and waiting rooms, and Amtrak officers watched passengers board trains.

The robbery occurred about 9: 20 a.m. at the First National Bank of Maryland in the 100 block of S. Greene St., at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Police said a man handed a teller a note that demanded money and implied he had a gun.

Police tracked the stolen money -- the amount was not disclosed -- through a small transmitter hidden between the bills. When activated, it emits a signal received by the police in the same way the LoJack system transmits the location of a stolen car.

The strongest signal, according to police radio broadcasts, came from Penn Station, which officers closed from 10: 55 a.m. to 11: 10 a.m. But a search turned up nothing, and Train No. 181 was allowed to leave for Washington about 11: 15 a.m.

"I hate to advise you of this, but as that train pulled out of there, we lost that signal completely," said a frustrated officer -- the observer in a police helicopter hovering over the train station.

Rick Remington, an Amtrak spokesman, said the train, which originated in New York, stopped at BWI Airport and New Carrollton before reaching Union Station in Washington. He said police watched passengers disembark in the capital without turning up a suspect.

Sgt. Mark E. Howe, a city police spokesman, said robbery detectives believed the suspect escaped by rail. But Remington said Amtrak officials believe "he never got on that train."

Pub Date: 5/28/98

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