Anne Arundel County police disclosed Friday three recent killings that they say are gang-related, but they were mum on details while issuing a cryptic warning to residents to come forward if they are in fear.
Chief Timothy Altomare said at a news conference Friday afternoon that in a rare move, the locations of killings and identities of the victims were not being disclosed because of the sensitivity of the continuing investigation. He said arrests had been made, also declining to give details.
"I'm here to confirm that Anne Arundel County police have found three bodies of human beings," Altomare said. "The people that we found were killed in a homicide. The murders are gang-related. And we have arrested multiple suspects."
Altomare said details were being withheld "for the best reasons in the world" and that he had decided to limit comments out of a "duty to the public."
Lt. Ryan Frashure, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Police Department, told The Baltimore Sun that the killings had occurred over the past three to five weeks in separate locations. The FBI confirmed they were providing assistance but said it could not provide details.
Altomare issued a call to residents "from the Calvert County line to the Baltimore City line."
"I'm asking the citizens of Anne Arundel County, from the bottom of my heart today, if you're in fear, if you think a gang wants to hurt you, I'm begging you to come and talk to us," he said. "Your lives matter to us, it's our job to keep you safe, we take it seriously, and we will move heaven and earth to get you the help you need if you need help to stay safe."
Just last week, Anne Arundel County officials announced the creation of a gang task force, a combination of officers from the county and Annapolis forces, as well as FBI agents.
Officials gave few details as to the makeup or size of the task force and demurred when asked if it would target any groups specifically. Altomare named a list of gangs with known presences in Maryland, but did not specify any attacks linked to them, the Baltimore Sun Media Group reported at the time.
"Recent events have demonstrated that we need to redouble our efforts and take back streets affected by gang violence," County Executive Steve Schuh said last week.
A spokesman for Schuh could not be immediately reached for comment Friday evening.
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Del. Pamela Beidle, chair of the county's delegation, said she had not been briefed on the killings but was not concerned about information being withheld.
"I think our chief's done a great job," she said. "There must be some reason he's keeping it hush."
A double homicide was reported in Brooklyn Park on Wednesday; police also reported finding skeletal remains in Quiet Waters Park in August. But Altomare said that the three gang-related killings have not been reported in the press.
Police gave a gang tip line that they asked anyone with information or concerns to call: 410-222-4700.