A kidnaping suspect was killed by Montgomery County police yesterday morning as he fled from officers and a police dog chasing him along Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.
The man shot and killed the dog and was fatally wounded as he scaled a fence and dropped into the grounds of the Chevy Chase Club.
Police blocked rush-hour traffic and ordered in dogs and a helicopter as they searched for the man, who had robbed a Rockville family at gunpoint earlier and forced one man from the family to drive him away. The kidnaping victim, a 65-year-old accountant, managed to escape before the chase began, rolling from the driver's seat onto the road when it was stopped by police.
The kidnaping began at 6:45 a.m., police said, when the robber accosted the accountant outside his Rockville house. After robbing the house, according to police, the man ordered the accountant to drive into Washington but was stopped by officers in Bethesda.
Police identified the dead man as Gregory James Watkins, 25, of Valley Avenue SE. They said several officers shot at Watkins and they were not yet sure how many times he had been struck. An autopsy is planned.
The accountant, who works in Reston, said he was leaving his house to go to work when Watkins accosted him with a revolver outside his kitchen door. He said he was ordered inside, where his son was handcuffed and his wife ordered to lie on the sofa.
The man and his son said they were ordered to help the robber collect valuables, placing jewelry and cameras in a pillow case. The robber then put the handcuff keys on top of the refrigerator. As soon as the car left, they said, they telephoned police.
The accountant, who asked that his name not be used, said he drove down Old Georgetown Road into Bethesda. When he reached Wisconsin Avenue, he said, he was surrounded by police cars.
Police spokesman Phillip Caswell said Watkins was ordered out of the car with his hands raised, but he fled. One officer fired at him, but missed, Caswell said.
As police searched the area, Sgt. Joseph W. McGrogan and his dog Blitz discovered Watkins hiding beneath a tree near Norwood Drive and Wisconsin Avenue. Watkins started running and McGrogan said he was about 10 feet behind Blitz when the dog seized Watkins by the arm and brought him to the ground.
As the dog and the man struggled, McGrogan said, Watkins thrust his revolver into Blitz's mouth and fired. Watkins got to his feet, and Blitz started to chase him again, but collapsed, McGrogan said.
With police shooting, Watkins ran across Wisconsin Avenue and up a small embankment and scaled a fence topped with barbed wire. He dropped the .38 caliber revolver and stumbled into the trees and underbrush lining the country club's seventh fairway. He collapsed and died there, police said.
Watkins' body lay for about an hour in the underbrush while detectives placed evidence, including Watkins' white sneakers, in bags.
The accountant and his family said they learned of their assailant's death with a mixture of relief and sadness. "I cried a bit," the accountant's wife said. "He was some mother's son."
The accountant said: "My stomach is still churning a little, but I realize that we are all safe now."
McGrogan said his dog, a large German breed called a rottweiler, died about five minutes after the shooting -- the first Montgomery County police dog killed in the line of duty. The dog joined the force in August.
Police officials offered Blitz a ceremonial burial, but McGrogan opted for a private affair that would be "more personal."