The frantic phone call had the potential to be deadly dangerous: After discovering that his wife had cheated on him, a Marine who had served three tours of duty in Iraq shot a hostage and barricaded himself in a Severna Park home. He wanted flak jackets sent to all troops in Iraq and demanded to speak with the president. He said he was ready to die if police didn't comply.
After closing roads and bringing in a special-response team, police determined that the elaborate scenario was a hoax. At the home where five hostages were supposedly being held by four disgruntled Iraq veterans, a couple who answered the phone said everything was fine, according to charging documents.
Anne Arundel County police said yesterday that the Sept. 8 call was one of a series of hoax calls alleged to have been made by at least one man over the past month. Nineteen-year-old Christopher Allen Scheibe, of the 600 block of Jumpers Hole Road in Severna Park, has been charged with reckless endangerment, making threats of arson, making false statements to police officers and false statements involving destructive devices, and telephone misuse.
He faces a maximum penalty of 28 years in prison and more than $25,000 in fines, and was being held at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on $750,000 bail. Police are looking into other possible suspects.
"There's so many investigative facets that come into play to determine if these calls are unfounded or legitimate, and we're definitely going to take it seriously until we have total proof that it's not [serious]," said Sgt. Sara Schriver, a police spokeswoman. "This was a great inconvenience for the community."
Other calls alleged to have been placed involved a Sept. 5 report of a shooting in the Carrollton Manor community of Severna Park, and a Sept. 10 bomb threat at Severna Park High School.
The hostage call was remarkably detailed, and an officer wrote in charging documents that the descriptions might have been based on a character in a television series called The Kill Point, about a group of soldiers who returned from Iraq and banded together to rob a bank.
The man on the phone identified himself as Sgt. Joseph Anthony Ramirez, a 27-year-old who had returned from a tour of duty to find that his wife had cheated on him and taken their two children to Michigan, according to charging documents.
He told a hostage negotiator that he was in a home in the 500 block of Park Drive - not far from Scheibe's residence - and had an assault rifle with a high-powered scope and 30 rounds of ammunition. The caller said he was with three other Marines, whom he identified by names, ranks and ages. They were all trained in urban warfare, armed with assault rifles and clad in body armor, the caller said, according to court papers.
The caller told the negotiator that he was watching police outside the home and wanted them to move a vehicle and a fuel tanker from a nearby 7-Eleven store at Jumpers Hole and Benfield roads. He said he was upset about roadblocks that had been put up and would set off seven explosions in the area. He also said he had shot one female hostage and tied another to a tree with glowsticks and a flashlight under her feet on Jumpers Hole Road, court records show.
A 911 dispatcher recognized the voice from a call for a shooting in Carrollton Manor days earlier. Police then determined that two cell phones used in the hostage case had also been used in the shooting and bomb-threat calls.
Scheibe told police that men with whom he had been at a party were responsible for the calls, according to court records. After being played tapes of the 911 calls, Scheibe admitted that he had made the calls after drinking and being pressured, the charging documents say.
"Normally, prank calls come from 9-years-olds or younger," said Schriver, the police spokeswoman. "When you have a 19-year-old sitting down, constructively thinking of a plan to make a series of calls, that's completely inexcusable, and we're going to charge with everything we can."
Schriver said the agency would seek to be compensated by suspects for resources used, such as overtime for additional officers.