Richard E. Hummer didn't trust banks, but he couldn't get along without them either. Strapped for cash, the 59-year-old electrical engineer kept refinancing his mortgages at higher and higher rates until he sank so deeply into debt that his lenders foreclosed on his College Park home last year, records show.
His mortgage company had tried to evict him for several months, but Hummer, 59, refused to go. On Thursday, when sheriff's deputies knocked on his front door at 5203 Nantucket Rd., Hummer answered with a volley of gunfire, injuring one deputy and sparking a shootout that resulted in his own death, Prince George's County police said.
Hummer's financial problems came to a head shortly after he accepted a telemarketer's offer in August 1996 and secured a 30-year $65,960 mortgage, at an interest rate of 14.85 percent, with Option One Mortgage Corp., of Santa Ana, Calif., according to public records and a letter that Hummer e-mailed to The Washington Post the day before he died.
It was at least the third time that Hummer, who was perpetually short of money and usually unemployed, had refinanced his mortgage since 1994. But a few months after signing the papers, he had trouble making his payments of $826 a month and soon was declared in default.
On Aug. 25, 1998, Option One Mortgage foreclosed on his brick home and sold it at auction on the front steps of the Prince George's County Courthouse to Bankers Trust Co. for $78,400, records show.
Still, Hummer refused to move out of the home where neighbors said he had lived for more than 30 years. A whiz with computers, he was unable to hold down a job for more than a few months at a time, partly because his diabetes had been diagnosed.
"I'm not helpless and will work anywhere that's possible," he wrote in his rambling e-mail to The Post. "[But] I haven't been able to solve the above problems [most not mine] and stay alive with the diabetes in the time allotted."
Hummer eventually became more and more reclusive, rarely venturing from his house, which began to suffer from neglect. "You didn't have to talk to him to figure out he was having trouble with money," said Dave Jones, 40, a neighbor. "His house isn't in very good repair. It's obvious there are major leaks in the roof."
In February, Bankers Trust filed a motion in Prince George's Circuit Court asking that it be awarded possession of the property. On June 4, the order was granted by Circuit Court Judge G.R. Hovey, and the sheriff's department was instructed to evict Hummer from the house.
Six deputies--four more than usual for an eviction case--showed up at Hummer's house on Thursday after an agent hired by Bankers Trust to handle the repossession warned that Hummer might pose trouble, said Sgt. Bill Ament, a sheriff's department spokesman.
Cpl. James Temple walked up to the front step and knocked. Hummer opened the door, raised a handgun and started firing, police said.
Temple ducked but was grazed in the back of the head by a bullet. He was dragged to safety by other deputies, who returned fire. After a gun battle that lasted about eight minutes, Hummer was fatally shot as he walked out of the side of his house with a shotgun.
Temple was treated and released for his injury. Prince George's police said yesterday they have not determined who fired the fatal shot that felled Hummer. The officers who returned fire were identified as Sgt. George Powell, Cpl. Michael Crane and Cpl. Ronald Oliver of the sheriff's department and Cpl. Steven F. Gaughan of the police department. All have been placed on routine administrative leave pending an investigation, police said.
L. Darren Goldberg, a Leesburg lawyer who represents Bankers Trust and handled the eviction case, said he had not received any letters or warnings from Hummer.
"We're obviously sorry about what happened," he said. "It's really an unbelievable occurrence."