A 23-year-old Baltimore man was charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the shooting death Monday of an off-duty Baltimore County police officer who was working as a security guard at a Pikesville jewelry store, police said.
Police, acting on a tip, arrested Troy White, 23, Tuesday at the West Baltimore home of an acquaintance with whom he had been staying. Inside the home, in the 1000 block of N. Ellamont St., police found watches they said had been stolen from the jewelry store. The watches were stuffed between cushions on the living room couch where police said White had slept the night before.
On the night of the shooting, "he was just sitting there on the couch" watching television, including the coverage of Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero's death, said the friend, Rachel G. Potts, 30.
White, who has served six years in prison on drug, theft and handgun charges in Baltimore and Baltimore County, has used at least four aliases and given six dates of birth in the past, according to court records. His last known address was in the 4400 block of Frederick Ave. in Baltimore.
He was being held without bail at the Baltimore County Detention Center last night and was scheduled to appear at a bail hearing this morning.
The arrest was the first in the shooting of Prothero, 35, outside J. Brown Jewelers. Police said they are looking for three other men. Their investigation appeared to be focused in the city.
Police would not say what role they think White had in the robbery.
"I knew this news was going to come," Sgt. Cole Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, said of the arrest. "It's extremely important that all the people responsible for this crime are arrested and tried. We are very passionate about that, and it is our No. 1 priority."
Police said they got a tip Monday that a suspect in the case, known as "Fats," was staying in West Baltimore with Potts, who said she met White at a Franklin Street bar on New Year's Day.
Slept on couch
Police put the house under surveillance Tuesday and arrested White that afternoon as he left the building. He was taken to police headquarters in Towson for questioning and detained at the White Marsh precinct.
In an interview yesterday, Potts said White came to her house Monday evening and that her 13-year-old daughter let him in. She said he had visited her house twice before but had never stayed overnight. Potts said White slept on the couch Monday night, even though she asked him to leave.
"He just stayed, but I felt it was very unusual because I hadn't talked to him in a while," Potts said. "I didn't know nothing about the situation until they came to my house. I was shocked."
Host not charged
Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the county police, said Potts has been cooperative and has not been charged.
White has been arrested about 10 times in the area in the past seven years, generally on drug charges. In all but two of the cases, the charges were dropped or placed in the inactive file by prosecutors. In August 1995, he pleaded guilty to dealing drugs and was sentenced to three years in prison, according to court records.
His lawyer in that case, H. Scott Curtis, a former public defender, described White as "your average Baltimore drug dealer."
"I didn't think that he was a robber or a violent person when I represented him," Curtis said yesterday.
Hundreds attend viewing
Court records show that White used a number of aliases, including Antonio Tailey.
He was scheduled to stand trial in Baltimore District Court Feb. 25 on charges of marijuana possession.
As developments were being announced in the case, hundreds of officers and citizens formed a line around the Eline Funeral Home in Reisterstown yesterday, where a viewing was held for Prothero, a 12-year veteran who was the father of five children.
Prothero's funeral will be held today. He will receive full Police Department honors.
Prothero's death is the fifth of a county police officer on duty in the department's 126-year history.
Yesterday, more details of the incident emerged.
Police now say four men entered J. Brown Jewelers in the 1800 block of Reisterstown Road Monday and announced a robbery. One man grabbed Prothero by the neck with one hand and walked around the store, smashing a jewelry case with the other hand.
The men then fled with watches and jewelry, valued at $438,250, as Prothero chased them to a side parking lot, where he was shot twice, police said. He died 45 minutes later at Sinai Hospital.
The men escaped in a gray Oldsmobile that was recovered late Tuesday in Baltimore, according to a city police officer.
County and city police went to Zeskind's Hardware store, in the 200 block of S. Payton St. in Baltimore, Monday night and Tuesday, showing owner Rick Zeskind a photograph of a mallet found in the jewelry store and apparently used during the robbery to smash open cases.
Zeskind said two of the $12.98 mallets were purchased at his store Feb. 5 and on the day of the robbery. He said he recognized the mallet in a police photograph immediately.
"We are one of the only ones who mark our prices with a Magic Marker," Zeskind said. "It was my handwriting" on the handle.
Last night, police were searching the brick rowhouse in the 4400 block of Frederick Ave. where White is believed to have lived. The two-story house is the second in a row of four well-maintained houses on the busy road.
"It's been scary here"
A neighbor said yesterday that this was not the first time that police have expressed interest in activities in the house, which is believed to be White's last known address.
"There was a lot of traffic in and out. This was all hours of the night," said the neighbor, who did not want his name used. "It's been scary here for a while."
This week's incident has drawn an outpouring of public support for the Prothero family. A radio station has raised $30,000. Separately, Baltimore County's Fraternal Order of Police has tallied $3,000 in contributions so far, and officials said there is a stack of mail to sift through.
Contributions to the Prothero children's fund may be sent to the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, Prothero Fund, 9304 Harford Road, Baltimore, MD 21234.
Sun staff writers Dan Thanh Dang, Caitlin Francke, Richard Irwin, Dennis O'Brien and John Rivera, and staff researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.