Prince George's County police yesterday called it highly unlikely that a hit-and-run driver knew the Sears security guard or an alleged thief who were struck and killed outside Landover Mall Saturday night.
Two guards had chased and captured the suspect and were handcuffing him when a speeding van struck all three of them, police said. The second guard suffered a minor leg injury.
There is "a remote chance," a police detective said, that the driver of the van knew one or both of the dead victims. He said police have no evidence to that effect, but "we're not ruling it out."
Police searched yesterday for a light brown or beige van with black or dark blue horizontal stripes on the side, which they believe was involved in the incident.
Victor Suber, 26, the plainclothes security guard who was killed, was described by family and friends as a devoted father and hard-working perfectionist who "always gave 100 percent in everything he did," his mother Nancy Suber said.
Suber had chased an alleged shoplifter out of Sears and onto adjacent Landover Road about 5 p.m. Saturday when the incident occurred.
The shoplifting suspect, whose body has been taken to the state medical examiner in Baltimore for fingerprinting, has not been identified by police.
The second Sears security officer was identified as Charles Mallory Edgar, 25, of Bowie.
Althea Boikin, a clerk in the children's clothes department at Sears, said a man had snatched 10 to 15 little girls' coats off a sales rack.
The man stuffed the coats into brown shopping bags and was carrying the shopping bags when he was noticed by store security officers. He dropped the bags just outside the store's second-floor entrance when the security officers began chasing him, Boikin said.
At Suber's house on Halloway Circle in Marlboro Meadows, his mother sat on a bed and sifted through photographs. There were photos of Suber holding his tiny daughter Kimberly; of Suber hugging his wife Christine; of Suber dancing at his wedding five years ago. In each snapshot, Suber was grinning.
"Victor had a smile that everyone loved," said Nancy Suber. "He loved his family, and everybody loved him."
The father of two -- Kimberly, 5, and 16-month-old Christopher -- Suber worked two jobs to provide for his family, Nancy Suber said. He also was employed as a full-time mechanical draftsman in the ocean systems division of Gould Inc., a Glen Burnie, Md., electronics firm.
"He wanted to make sure his wife was with the babies," Nancy Suber said.
Suber's widow Christine cuddled Christopher in the next room. She and Suber had just celebrated her 24th birthday on Christmas Day.
"He was my best buddy," she said, her eyes brimming with tears. "He was generous with everybody. Victor did everything to the best of his ability.
"We can see what happened with that . . . . "
Suber's coworkers said he had taken the $6-an-hour part-time job at Sears about 15 months ago to make extra money so that he and Christine could buy the house they were renting in Marlboro Meadows.
Suber's coworkers sat in the store's security office yesterday and talked about Suber while keeping their eyes on a wall full of television monitors.
Sears' security force is primarily responsible for catching shoplifters in the store, and has apprehended about 60 in the past two months, the guards said.
"Victor was the kind of guy everybody liked," said Thomas E. Gwinn, a salesman in the plumbing department who occasionally played basketball with Suber. "He was a real clean-cut guy -- a straight arrow."
Edgar, 25, the other security guard who was struck by the hit-and-run van, was treated at Prince George's Doctors Hospital, then returned to the store after it closed at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, the security guards said. "He was pretty broken up about it," said one guard who asked not to be identified. "To see all that, anyone would be."
The Rev. William Thomas Jr., Suber's clergyman at the Antioch Baptist Church, who presided at Suber's wedding, said that Suber "had a strong faith in God and church."
"Victor was the son that every person would want to have," Thomas said as he comforted Suber's family.
"We are all shocked," said Lester Echols, Suber's father-in-law, who lives in Lorton. "We are beyond shock."