Stolen Fuel Recovered; Gas Station Cordoned

Much of the fuel stolen from a tanker Friday was recovered. A witness saw fuel being removed from a gas station. (By Stephen J. Boitano -- Associated Press)
By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Much of the fuel stolen in a tanker robbery Friday has been returned, according to Baltimore Tank Lines, which had a truck taken from a driver at gunpoint.

The truck was found near Bolling Air Force Base in Southeast Washington, and a nearby gas station was cordoned off for hours Friday, according to residents.

Police in Washington and Baltimore released no new information yesterday and declined to say that any gas station was linked to their investigation.

One resident said police cordoned off a Southeast Washington station and stayed for hours as an industrial hose streamed fuel from an underground tank into a waiting fuel truck.

"They were just using the hose to suck it out," said Sandra Smith, a private-duty nurse who witnessed the scene. At the station yesterday, an employee declined to comment. Reached by phone, an owner declined to comment.

The tanker driver was held up at gunpoint at about 5 a.m. at a fuel depot in Baltimore, authorities said.

Initially, the theft touched off scares of potential terrorism, though that quickly subsided. Yesterday, an FBI official reiterated that there were no connections to terrorism.

After a major search effort, the truck was recovered along Malcolm X Avenue near Interstate 295, missing about 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel. That would have a retail value of about $20,000. With rising fuel prices, such thefts are not unheard of, experts said.

An employee with Baltimore Truck Lines, whose driver had been held up by the assailant with the handgun, said the company got much of the fuel back by the end of the strange episode. "The whole situation was odd," the employee said.

Staff writer Mary Beth Sheridan and researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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