Three Baltimore County road crew employes have been suspended without pay after putting a noose around a coworker's neck and pulling him off the ground until he lost consciousness, Baltimore County officials say.

The three could be fired or demoted for endangering the life of Harrison Hensley, Gene L. Neff, director of the county Public Works Department, said Friday.

Neff said he is investigating the incident, which occurred during working hours Wednesday, Hensley's 33rd birthday. Neff said he expected to decide soon whether to take any further disciplinary action against the three men.

The suspended employes, foreman John Herzog, roller operator Albert Gohlinghorst and truck driver Jerry Peyton, have all worked for the highway bureau for more than 10 years. They were told not to discuss the incident, Gohlinghorst said Friday.

Hensley maintained that the incident was part of a two-year pattern of harassment and abuse by his coworkers that he blamed on his size. At 5-feet-5, Hensley said, he is the shortest man on the road crew. He said he felt physically threatened by the men.

'I'm scared to death of those guys," Hensley said as he sat in his lawyer's office in Towson on Friday. "They tried to hang me, and they meant business."