Knife-wielding Maryland man allegedly threatens to kill family and drink poison
By Dan Morse
The Washington Post|
Apr 21, 2019 at 11:55 AM
From the outside, things seemed perfectly normal for a Monday evening at the two-story townhouse.
But behind the red door, police say, a 28-year-old man named Zain Imdad was holding captive four members of a family — including his estranged wife — in a plan as nonsensical as it was terrifying. He’d slipped into the Germantown home through a sliding-glass door in the basement, police say, armed with two tactical knives, a pistol, five-pairs of handcuffs and four bottles of a cloudy white liquid he said was poison.
He wanted to know, could he leave with his wife, 21, without anyone calling the police?
“I need my answers,” he told them, according to court filings. “Or I will kill everyone.”
One man being held managed furtively to make a cellphone call to his wife, keeping the line open long enough that she heard what was happening and called 911. Seven Montgomery County police cars raced in to the neighborhood. Officers entered the house, wrestled Imdad on the kitchen floor and grabbed a knife he’d been holding to his wife’s neck.
“We fully believe, without the officers’ interventions, that Mr. Imdad would have carried out his horrendous plan,” Capt. Tom Jordan, a Montgomery County Police spokesman, said Friday.
Investigators continue to analyze the bottles’ contents to determine if they contained poison. The pistol was a BB-gun, but one that to the victims looked convincingly like a regular handgun that could carry out Imdad’s announced plan, according to police statements.
Police charged him with 29 criminal counts, including violating a retraining order his wife had obtained, home invasion and attempted murder. He remained held in jail Saturday on no bond status.
Imdad was represented in court Wednesday by a Montgomery County public defender who did not discuss details of the allegations. Allen Wolf, the head of that office, declined to comment on the case Friday.
Investigators also are trying to determine whether the encounter in the townhouse may be connected to what appeared to be a suicide note they say they found in Imdad’s backpack.
“FOR POLICE,” it began, according to a police affidavit “Please don’t waste your time looking for me ... I have taken a poison that will take 72-96 hours to kill me. My body will turn up in a few days in sugarloaf mountain.”
Also in the backpack, police found a roll of duct tape, 100 feet of heavy-duty para cord and a thumb-drive said to further explain his intentions, according to court records.
Court records offer only a few details about Imdad’s life. He recently worked in a sandwich shop in Germantown and drove a black Audi A6 sedan, according to the records.
Imdad’s relationship with his wife goes back at least a year, according to court records. When he said he wanted to marry, and she did not, detectives said in an affidavit filed in court, he threatened to shoot himself if she didn’t change her mind.
He carried out the threat, survived the shooting, and the two went on to quietly marry at a courthouse on Sept. 14, 2018, according to the affidavit. The couple lived apart, reflecting the wife’s growing concern over safety, which became so heightened she sought a restraining order, court records show.
“I am afraid he might attack me or my family,” she wrote on March 14 seeking the protection order. Four days later, District Court Judge Eugene Wolfe ordered Imdad to have no contact with his wife for a year.
A short time later, though, Imdad allegedly called her, according to a report she filed with the court that said her husband told her “you know it’s me, so listen.”
He demanded she get back to him within 48 hours — for what reason was not clear in the records — and threatened her if she didn't. “Trust me on this, I will ruin everything,” she recalled him saying in her court statement.
In a series of court moves, authorities sent Imdad a letter demanding he return to court to explain the alleged contact with his wife, a trial date was set for Imdad’s alleged violation of the stay-away order and he filed a notice of appeal.
By mid-April, according to court records, his estranged wife and her family moved to the townhouse, the location of which they tried to keep secret from Imdad, according to police.
But by 4:30 p.m. last Monday, court records contend, he’d found it.
Detectives allege he opened a sliding-glass door wide enough to reach in and dislodge a two-by-four piece of wood that had been wedged into the sliding track.
He slipped into the basement and confronted a 15-year-old boy who had recently come home from school and was alone in the house, the detectives wrote in statements on Imdad’s arrest.
Imdad pointed his replica pistol at the teen, took away his cellphone, and together they waited for more family members to arrive, according to investigators.
At 5:20 p.m., police say, Imdad’s wife and her brother-in-law entered upstairs. Imdad forced the 15-year-old to call out to them, drawing them downstairs, according to court records. A fourth family member arrived later, and he, too, was corralled in the basement.
Imdad repeatedly said he was not leaving without his wife and warned them not to call for help, according to detectives. “If cops come,” he reportedly said, “there will be four dead bodies lying in here.”
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Imdad eventually went upstairs with the four, sitting on sofas, but he had failed to collect all the phones — leading to the furtive call that brought the police, according to police allegations filed in court.
Just after 7 p.m., with police sirens sounding, Imdad ran to the front of the house, positioning himself so he could look out a large bay window while keeping an eye on his wife and her family, police said. He began saying he would shoot everyone, according to the detectives’ affidavit, prompting a 49-year-old man who was among those held, to charge him, pull off his backpack and open the front door so officers could rush in.
They found Imdad atop his wife on the floor with a knife as another relative tried to pull him off, according to police. The officers helped wrestle with himand got the knife.
“It was definitely a physical confrontation,” said Jordan, the police spokesman.