Man attempts to steal safe, flee in taxi

March 4, 2012

A cafeteria worker at Virginia Hospital Center was charged with kidnapping, robbery and possession of an illegal hallucinogen Saturday after he tied up a co-worker, used an office chair to roll a cabinet safe out of the building and loaded it into the trunk of a taxi, police said.

The episode began shortly before 3 p.m., at the hospital’s sprawling campus on George Mason Drive, according to ­Arlington County police. Albert Murray, 48, of Alexandria arrived by taxi. After apparently asking the driver to wait, he entered the cafeteria and asked a manager to accompany him to a back office, police said.

There, the robber produced a knife and demanded the combination to a cabinet safe in the office, police said. When the manager insisted that she didn’t know the combination, she was bound with an electrical cord while the man loaded the safe onto a rolling chair, police said.

“The cafeteria is in the dead center of the building,” said Adrien Stanton, a vice president at the hospital. “Whichever way he went he had to go through a lot of corridors.”

At the sidewalk, the robber loaded the safe into the trunk of the waiting taxi. But when the driver challenged him — and as a hospital security guard approached at a run — the robber jumped into the driver’s seat and tried to speed away, police said. The taxi driver managed to get in through the passenger door in time to kill the ignition switch of the car, a hybrid vehicle. The robber then attempted to flee on foot across the hospital grounds, police said.

Arlington police officers, responding to numerous emergency calls about the incident, arrested Murray after a brief foot chase. He was being held at the Arlington jail on charges of abduction, two counts of robbery, grand larceny and possession of PCP, a hallucinogenic drug. Police did not say whether the suspect was under the influence of the drug at the time of the incident.

Stanton said the cafeteria manager was shaken but unhurt in the incident. She and Murray were employees of Aramark, which provides food services at the hospital.

Steve Hendrix came to The Post more than ten years ago from the world of magazine freelancing and has written for just about every page of the paper: Travel, Style, the Magazine, Book World, Foreign, National and, most recently, the Metro section’s Enterprise Team.
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