Robbery, shots rattle a quiet neighborhood

The Baltimore Sun

Word spread at young Alex Rummel's bus stop yesterday morning that the Super Fresh around the corner had just been robbed. As police cruisers swarmed the neighborhood, Alex, 13, ran home to tell his mother.

Then things got interesting.

After hearing a ruckus in the backyard of their Cottington Road home, Alex and his mother watched through their kitchen window as police officers lifted a German shepherd over their neighbor's fence. The police dog bolted straight to a shed, and the officers immediately followed.

"They were climbing the fence and handing each other assault rifles," Vicki Rummel said. "Then there were three shots. Boom! Boom! Boom!"

A moment later, she said, four officers hurriedly carried a colleague to the street. And before Rummel knew it, two officers were in her kitchen, aiming handguns through the window.

The shooting yesterday that left a robbery suspect dead and a Baltimore County police officer injured unfolded during a foggy morning in a quiet neighborhood in Perry Hall. It forced the lockdown of four public schools, closed local roads during morning rush hour, and left many residents confused.

The principal at Tabernacle Christian School, just down the street from the shooting, was ordered to take about 10 to 15 children at the school to a fast-food restaurant several yards away, on Belair Road.

"Let's go on a field trip," principal Wendy Hyatt said she told the kids. Employees at the restaurant gave the children free hash browns and biscuits, and the children played in the jungle gym until their parents came to pick them up.

At Perry Hall Elementary, one parent said she was unnerved when she learned that the school was on lockdown for the second time in less than a month.

On Nov. 21, Perry Hall Elementary, Perry Hall Middle and Perry Hall High were on lockdown for more than an hour after three armed men wearing dark clothing and ski masks robbed a First Mariner Bank branch in the 8800 block of Bel Air Road.

"I wish they had put out word sooner because I would've kept him at home," said Cathy Wichulis, whose 7-year-old son, William, is a second-grader at Perry Hall Elementary. "It scares me. When you send your kids to school, you want them educated. Now you have to worry about their safety."

Generally, schools on lockdown are required to keep all doors locked and allow no one to enter or leave the building, said county schools spokesman Charles A. Herndon.

At Perry Hall Elementary yesterday, police escorted arriving children into the building during the lockdown because it would have been more disruptive for buses to turn around and take students back home, Herndon said.

C.J. Billingy said she was dropping off her 5-year-old daughter, Marcia, at about 7:45 a.m. when they noticed the wounded officer. He was lying on the ground near the school's parking lot, covered by a blanket to keep warm, Billingy said.

Her daughter asked, "was he going to die, was he going to go to heaven?" Billingy said. "She wanted to know what the man's kids were going to do without him."

"These are not thoughts I want her to have in her head," she added.

Within an hour, a seemingly endless stream of police vehicles had swarmed the neighborhood of one-story brick houses. Police cordoned off several streets and forced several residents to evacuate their homes as they surrounded the suspect, who had entered a shed facing Rummel's backyard.

Rummel said she knew something was wrong when her golden retriever, Sienna, barked about 7 a.m. "He never barks," she said.

She and her son watched from their kitchen as at least 10 officers hopped over the fence, one by one. The fog made it hard to see what was going on in the yard, but after hearing the gun shots, they said they saw the injured officer being carried to the street.

Alex said he heard one officer say repeatedly, "Come out with your hands up."

Within minutes, officers knocked on their door, saying they needed to come into the house.

One officer went downstairs as two went to the kitchen and removed the screen from the window. They were aiming their guns outside the window as Rummel and her son watched from the entrance of the kitchen.

"I was on the phone with my husband, giving him play by play," said Rummel, a physical therapy assistant.

One of the officers apologized for the inconvenience, she said.

When the SWAT team arrived, officers escorted the mother and son to Tabernacle Christian, where they stayed for several hours before being allowed back in their house.

She said she called her son's school to explain his absence. "I'm like, 'He's got a very good reason for not being there.'"

Police believe six supermarket robberies are linked:

Jan. 6: 6:15 a.m. at a Super Fresh store in the 5100 block of East Drive in Arbutus.

Jan. 18: 7 a.m. at a Mars Supermarket in the 9500 block of Philadelphia Road in the Rosedale area.

Feb. 21: 6:30 a.m. at a Super Fresh in the 7000 block of Security Blvd. in Woodlawn.

March 21: 7:05 a.m. at a Mars Supermarket in the 11900 block of Reisterstown Road in Reisterstown.

Oct. 9: Mars Supermarket in the 8600 block of Belair Road in the Perry Hall area.

Nov. 7: 6:17 a.m. at a Super Fresh in the 1700 block of Chesaco Ave. in Rosedale.

[Source: Baltimore County Police]

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