Man tweets, broadcasts police standoff from basement in Baltimore

Man tweets, broadcasts police standoff from basement in Baltimore
Frank James MacArthur is taken into custody by Baltimore City Police Saturday night in Waverly. (Justin George, Baltimore Sun)

Twitter and web radio carried a new kind of prime-time crime drama in Baltimore Saturday when a Waverly man refused to allow police to serve a warrant and then broadcast the ensuing standoff after a S.W.A.T. team arrived. He was on the air live Saturday night for more than 5 hours, much of it spent talking to a police negotiator before surrendering peacefully.

Another day and night in the brave, new world of social media…


Frank James MacArthur, a cabdriver, who tweets, blogs and broadcasts on the Internet as The Baltimore Spectator, left the airwaves just before 11 p.m. saying, “All right, it’s 10:57. Network news comes on at 11. Let’s wrap this up for the networks. I’m headed out. ”

After telling police he had to first “pee” before exiting his home, MacArthur added, “I thank everybody for listening, for showing your concern … I ask some of you don’t abandon me. I’ve been railroaded… I’m going to need some help after this… Those of you who can contribute to legal defense fund contact Delegate Jill P. Carter.

He identified Carter as his attorney.

MacArthur picked up more than 2,000 followers on Twitter during the day and night Saturday. His media day started Saturday afternoon as he first chronicled on Twitter how police had come to his home earlier in the day to serve a warrant.

That audience included Roland Martin, analyst for TVOne and CNN, who tweeted, "Why won't a friend of @BaltoSpectator come by to help him out, as opposed to the cops tearing the doors to arrest him."

The live telephone conversation between Frank James MacArthur and a police negotiator, Lt. Jason Yerg, seems as if it should have felt more dramatic. But MacArthur’s remarks about “wrapping it up” and what was being tweeted about him, made it feel at times as if he was playing a role or performing rather than engaged in a life and death situation.

“I’m a public figure now,” MacArthur said early in his conversation with Yerg, which was heard live on Internet radio. “I’m a journalist, and this is my story.”

MacArthur later described himself as “one lone blogger in a dark part of his basement.”

At another point, he said, “Mainstream media’s been ignoring me as long as I’ve been here. Now, thanks to you guys, they’re all paying attention. Everybody loves a tragedy.”

Later, he added, “We’ve got thousands of people around the world listening, and this is the craziest thing I ever experienced in my life. So, you never heard of me before?”

Yerg replied, “I’ll be listening to you when you get out, though.”

Listening to the police negotiator was the most compelling part of the broadcast as he tried to draw MacArthur out of the house.

MacArthur had promised to come out at 10:30, but as that time passed, Yerg stepped up his encouragement.

“I guarantee your safety,” Mr. MacArthur. “You’re going to be treated with fairness and respect.


“Fairness and respect? No friggin’ knees in my back?” the blogger asked.

“I just got word from my audience that you guys are not letting anybody near my block. So you just got rid of the witnesses,” MacArthur said. “I’m going to come out and whatever happens, happens. I’m prepared to die.… There are people who responded to me, because they care about me and they want to see justice served, and you’re not letting them get to me. You’re coming up with all sorts of justifications … but it’s just a ruse to get rid of potential witnesses.”

“How long are you going to need?” Yerg asked.

“Just a few minutes. I need to secure some things in my home. I need you to stay with me,” MacArthur said to Yerg. “ I could have disappeared, but I chose not to. I chose to stand up and face you guys…. I don’t even have to be in this country… And I hope you can respect that …. There are far too many people watching. I’m not as stupid as some of your officers. I’m not going to do something stupid.”

Much of the night was spent with MacArthur listing all the ways he felt Baltimore Police had “disrespected” him and the way he had allegedly been kept in jail for 40 days without any charges filed. He also complained about police using the “deadly”  as an adjective for a weapon he had, which led to a previous arrest.

“I don’t want you to think you’re dealing with some criminal deviant,” he told Yerg.

“This is coming to an end,” he told listeners as he was about to exit. “Should you guys never hear from me again it’s because these coppers killed me. If something funny happens to me, lieutenant, the world is watching.”

“I think you’ll have a ton of advocates,” Yerg replied.”

“Whatever happens next, hopefully, local media will give it lots of coverage. I will be placing myself, my life, my safety in Lt. Yerg’s hands,” he said.

“The audience won’t be listening because I’m going to walk away from this microphone. … Let’s send this thing into orbit.”

But he stayed at the microphone a little longer, long enough to say, “OK, folks, this it… I thank everybody for listening, for showing your concern ... This is a ratings bonanza – a smash hit."

Correction: This version corrects the length of time of the broadcast and the number of followers added on Twitter.