A former Hyattsville police officer who was dismissed from the force two weeks ago was arrested and charged with attempted robbery yesterday after an early-morning holdup attempt at a doughnut shop in Berwyn Heights, Prince George's County police said.

Donald Ramby Ferguson, 28, and a companion, Sharon Rose Petterman, 24, both of Riverdale, were charged with robbery in eight holdups since Nov. 3 in Prince George's County, authorities said.

Police said a would-be robber fled a Dunkin Donuts shop in Berwyn Heights about 3:40 a.m. without getting any money. The robber had handed a note to the counter clerk but the clerk did not understand the message and asked him to read it aloud. When he did, the clerk panicked and activated the police alarm.

Ferguson and Petterman were arrested several minutes later in a 1987 Ford Escort on Princess Garden Parkway in Lanhan.

A police spokesman said authorities have been investigating several robberies at small establishments such as convenience stores, dry cleaning businesses, a florist and doughnut shops stretching from College Park to Camp Springs.

In the incidents, the robber would hand the store clerk a handwritten note that read: "This is a holdup. I have a gun in my pocket, give me all your money."

Hyattsville police contacted the Prince George's County police and police departments in Northern Virginia last weekend after they realized that the description of the holdup man given by several victims matched the former police officer.

"They were being very alert in checking robbery information," said Robert Law, a spokesman for the Prince George's police. Law said that until then, county police had no leads in the case.

Ferguson, who joined the Hyattsville police in August, was dismissed Oct. 28 after failing a drug test.

About two weeks before that, Debra Ann Ferguson, a Capitol Hill police officer who's being divorced from Ferguson, complained to Hyattsville police Maj. Robert Perry that her husband had missed child support payments. She refused to discuss the matter yesterday.

"He was a good police officer. I wouldn't have hired him if he weren't," Perry said. "Everyone here thinks his turnaround was about two months ago."

Perry said he believes that is about the time that Ferguson began spending time with Petterman.

Until July, Ferguson had been on the 12-member Riverdale police force for 1 1/2 years, earning $18,000 annually, according to Chief Alfred Barcenas, who called Ferguson "a very good man."

Ferguson and Petterman were being held in the Prince George's County Correctional Center.