4-County Chase Ends in Shootout

Suspect Killed in Bank Robbery Chase
K-9 officer and SWAT team members walk down Wexhall Drive in Burtonsville during a search for bank robbers on the run. (Ricky Carioti - Washington Post)
By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 21, 2008

Shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday, three men walked into a Bank of America branch in Howard County. They stole money, shot a female employee in her hand and drove away in a black pickup, police said.

Immediately behind them, apparently without their knowledge, was a citizen on his cellphone, telling police where the trio were going.

By 4 p.m., after a chase that spanned four counties, one of the three men had been killed in a shootout with police behind a row of townhouses in Montgomery County; a second was in custody; and a third remained on the loose, law enforcement officials said. Police did not immediately identify any of the men.

Late last night, police announced that the FBI was taking the lead in the investigation and would charge the suspect in custody.

The chase was part of a frantic day for Howard officers, who subsequently chased and arrested a suspect in a different incident. An officer was videotaped by a TV news crew punching that suspect, prompting an internal police review.

The bank robbery pursuit put a sprawling neighborhood south of Burtonsville in a virtual lockdown as officers roared along streets hanging onto the sides of tactical SWAT trucks, searched wooded areas on horseback and looked in "any place that could contain a human being," said Lt. Paul Starks, a Montgomery police spokesman. At least two police helicopters circled above. Residents coming out of the neighborhood were stopped by pairs of officers, with one slowly opening car trunks and another pointing a high-powered rifle.

It was unclear which officer killed the suspect. Authorities say the suspect shot first, and officers from Howard, Prince George's and possibly Maryland State Police returned fire. Ballistics results will tell who fired the fatal shot, police said.

The citizen with the cellphone had alerted authorities to the location of the pickup shortly after the robbery, and Howard police were soon behind it. When officers tried to pull over the truck's driver, he took off, said Howard Cpl. Jennifer Reidy-Hall.

Officials yesterday were still trying to piece together the exact route of the chase, which went through parts of Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties. But initial reports indicated that officers pursued the pickup east on Route 32, north on Interstate 95, east on Route 100, south on Route 1, east on Route 103, along several side streets that apparently led them to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, south on the parkway, west and then north on Route 197, west on Route 198 through Laurel, south on Old Gunpowder Road and west on Greencastle Road.

About one-third of a mile along Greencastle, the suspects crossed into Montgomery from Prince George's. They drove nearly another mile, into a neighborhood of dozens of townhouse developments, with at least four public schools nearby.

In the area of Angelton Court, a small dead-end street, the trio stopped and bailed out of the pickup, police said. At least one fled through a neighborhood, along two long ponds. Officers from Howard, Prince George's and the state police followed.

Maj. Andrew Ellis, a Prince George's police spokesman, said initial reports characterized the chase as a "running gun battle."

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