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Gunman killed in Dundalk shootout was determined not to go back to jail, police say

Baltimore County police say the gunman killed during a shootout June 7 was determined not to go back to jail when confronted by officers in Dundalk.

Blaine Robert Erb, 35, of no fixed address, was fatally shot near the 3400 block of Dundalk Ave. Police said Erb robbed two people at gunpoint in a shopping center parking lot, then boarded an MTA bus before officers stopped it.

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Officer First Class Slocum, a 13-year-veteran of the county department, was seriously wounded in the shootout but is recuperating, police said. Baltimore County police do not publicly release the full names of officers in these cases, citing an agreement with the police union.

A 21-year-old female bystander also shot during the incident was expected to recover.

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Because Erb didn't have an address and "wasn't close to anybody," investigators know very little about him, county police spokeswoman Jennifer Peach said.

"It has been difficult for us to gather any solid information about this guy," Peach said.

Police do know that Erb had a "very long" criminal history in Maryland and neighboring states. His previous charges included assault, theft, robbery and weapon violations, police said. A bench warrant had been issued for Erb in York County, Pa., for failure to appear on DUI charges.

Online court records indicate Erb pleaded guilty in 2012 in Anne Arundel County to a charge of possessing contraband in jail. Records also show Erb pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in Baltimore County in 2003.

Peach said detectives believe Erb had difficulty finding work and staying afloat financially after his most recent stint in jail.

"He was not making ends meet," she said.

On the day of the shootout, detectives recovered a 9-mm semiautomatic rifle from a duffel bag belonging to Erb inside a Pizza Boli restaurant on Merritt Avenue in Dundalk, county police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.

Bashir Imtiaz, manager of the Pizza Boli's, said he had recently hired Erb to hand out advertising flyers, paying him $10 an hour. Imtiaz said Erb told him he had recently lost his job and moved to Maryland from Pennsylvania.

Erb seemed like a good employee who was "desperate" for work, he added.

"When [Erb] talked, he seemed like a very nice guy," Imtiaz said.

On the day of the shooting, Imtiaz said, Erb came in with a backpack and a "long bag," which he left at the store. But Erb didn't return, and when Imtiaz later opened the bag and saw its contents, he immediately called police.

Armacost said detectives feel "fairly certain" Erb's motivation for engaging in a shootout with police was that he he did not want to return to jail.

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Ashlyn Bean, who identified herself as Erb's niece, wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun that she has numerous letters he wrote while incarcerated. In the letters, Bean wrote, Erb said multiple times that "he will never go back to jail and would rather go in a [body] bag."

Bean said she doesn't understand why police fatally shot her uncle rather than wounding him.

"He did have a lengthy criminal record — that didn't define him as a person," Bean wrote.

Police aren't sure how Erb obtained the rifle or the handguns used during the shootout, Armacost said. He was prohibited from possessing firearms because of an armed robbery conviction.

It will likely take more than a month for detectives to finish their investigation as they complete forensic analysis and work with the FBI to determine how Erb obtained his weapons, Peach said.

The four officers who fired their weapons during the shootout have been placed on administrative duties as the investigation continues, which is routine procedure.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

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