Bolton Hill struck with muggings

The Baltimore Sun

The bride-to-be and six of her friends were standing on a Bolton Hill corner, waiting for taxis so they could continue their bachelorette party in Federal Hill.

But two men rode up on bicycles, and one pulled a handgun from under his sweat shirt.

"He pointed it right at my friend's head," said Emily Bartholomew, 29, a graduate student in environmental engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, who is to get married today. "He said, 'Give me all your money, drop it.'"

The women dumped their purses at the robbers' feet. Instead of celebrating the closing hours of Bartholomew's single life, they spent hours at a downtown police station near The Block, giving statements to detectives.

It was the latest in a series of muggings in Bolton Hill - and one of three Thursday night in the historic community of 19th-century rowhouses and tree-lined streets roughly bordered by West North Avenue, Eutaw Street and Mount Royal Avenue.

Police said 12 people have been robbed on neighborhood streets since January, nine of them Thursday. Fourteen robberies were reported last year during the corresponding time period. Authorities said some of the victims this year were students at the Maryland College Institute of Art, or MICA.

Bartholomew, in the midst of planning the finishing touches for her wedding, acknowledged that she was shaken.

"I was just really scared," Bartholomew said yesterday, a few hours before her wedding rehearsal. "I was just really worried about my friends. I just didn't want anyone to get hurt."

Maj. Dean Palmere, commander of the Central District, said there have been several cases in which people in groups were targeted and robbed and in some cases assaulted. Palmere said he has ordered uniformed and plainclothes officers to work in the area until they catch the men responsible.

"Historically, we try to stay up there until we catch the people," Palmere said. "I'm confident that we'll get these guys."

MICA's campus safety director said he has seen an increase in crime that started in late April, arriving with the warmer weather.

"Although there has been, from time to time, a spike in crime, there really hasn't been overall an increase in crime," said Harry Aziz, who has been managing safety operations for the art school for 10 years.

Four MICA students were robbed at gunpoint by two men about 11 p.m. May 4, college officials reported. The incident occurred near Bolton and Laurens streets, close to where women in the bachelorette party were mugged Thursday night.

Last weekend, MICA students walking in Bolton Hill were mugged or assaulted in three incidents, campus officials said.

On April 29, three students walking near North and Park avenues were approached by seven teenage boys.

"Two of them drew near the students and without warning struck one in the face before fleeing on foot," according to the college's incident report.

Aziz said students and neighborhood residents are still safer walking in groups at night.

The recent crimes appear to be committed by boys as young as 11 or 12 years old to young men in their late teens or early 20s, according to police and MICA officials. Young criminals pose a particular challenge for law enforcement, Aziz said, because they are more likely to be quickly released back to their parents.

The people who mugged Bartholomew and her friends were young men, police said.

Bartholomew said she remembers standing on the sidewalk with her friends when a man on a small bicycle rode up next to them and asked for the time. She said it was about 10:15 p.m. Seconds later, another man rode up on a bicycle, and he also asked for the time. Bartholomew told him the same time: "10:15."

That's when he reached under his sweat shirt and pulled out the gun, she said. Bartholomew threw her purse at his feet. Their friends tossed out their wallets, cell phones and other belongings. A friend from the Netherlands, one of her bridesmaids, gave the robber some euros - the common currency throughout much of Europe.

The robbers made off with about $315 in American money and $20 worth of euros, several cell phones, credit cards and other identification cards, police said.

Afterward, the men jumped back on their bikes and rode away. Bartholomew and her friends went to the downtown Central District police station on East Baltimore Street to give statements, and didn't finish until about 1 a.m. Her fiance, Josh Fisher, 32, was out that same night at his bachelor party. Fisher and Bartholomew, who have been together for 6 1/2 years and moved into Bolton Hill last year, met back at their home after she returned from the police station.

"Last night [Thursday], everyone was just being pretty supportive and holding it together," Bartholomew said. "Even the girl who had the gun pointed at her head."

Police described the man who held the gun as a black male 18 to 20 years old, standing about 5 feet 9 inches and weighing about 160 pounds. He had six thick braids in his hair and wore a long-sleeve white T-shirt and blue jeans.

The second man was described as a black male in his late teens or early 20s, also standing about 5 feet 9. He was wearing a red sweat shirt and a hat with cornrows or twists poking out the back, police said.

Sun reporter Gadi Dechter contributed to this article.

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