A man rammed a stolen landscaping truck into the lobby of a Baltimore television station Tuesday, police said, prompting a standoff that forced the building’s evacuation and knocked the ABC affiliate off the air for hours.
Authorities in Baltimore County eventually entered the building and found the man armed with a golf club and holed up in a second-floor editing room, where he was watching television accounts of the incident.
Brian Kuebler, a reporter at the station, gave a firsthand account on Twitter, writing that the “suspect tried to get in building screaming LET ME IN and said he was God.”
Police did not immediately identify the man, but said he is in his late 20s. Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson said the man was taken for psychiatric evaluation.
Reporters at the station, located on York Road just north of the Baltimore City line, posted news updates on the Internet but could not resume broadcasting until shortly after the 41/2-hour standoff ended about 4:35 p.m. They set up a temporary newsroom in a nearby hotel. A competitor, WJZ-TV, helped them get back on the air, the Baltimore Sun reported.
Police shut down a thoroughfare linking Baltimore to suburban Towson and forced several schools, including St. Pius X School next door to the station, into lockdown.
The story played out on live television and on social media, where the displaced reporters published firsthand accounts of the driver repeatedly ramming the large vehicle against the station’s doors before it crashed through and became embedded in the lobby, nearly wrapped around a staircase. The truck ended up about 20 feet from the newsroom, according to WMAR.
“I saw him come through,” said Pat Bihy, the station’s assistant to the general manager, who hid in an office. “I couldn’t believe it.” Her account was posted on WMAR’s Web site along with many others.
The general manager, Bill Hooper, said on the site that he grabbed a baseball bat and, peering through a crack in his door, saw a man walking down a hallway carrying a fire extinguisher. “He didn’t see me, but I saw him,” he told his station. “I closed the door and waited for help.”
Johnson said the station’s more than 50 employees were escorted out of the building in a safe and orderly manner. He said one person hid in the basement and that leaving him there was safer than trying to get him out. “It benefited us as the afternoon wore on,” the chief said. “He was feeding us information.” The station identified him only as Nick and said he stayed on the phone with police officers for 31/2 hours to help them navigate the building — and to discuss their shared backgrounds in the Marines.
The incident began, police said, when the man stole the unattended truck from a company in Towson and drove it to the station. Johnson said the man banged on the front doors, but the security guard refused to let him in. The man then got back into the truck. Video shows him driving into the doors, backing up, and slamming into them again until they broke.
Police said officers found several machete sheaths in the truck, but that they belonged to workers who used it. Police said the man was armed only with tools from the truck and the golf club.
Can't really tell too much but that was our entrance. There is now a truck in the lobby. pic.twitter.com/py1FhqK4JY— KellyfromABC2 (@KellyfromABC2) May 13, 2014
Police gearing up in lot of St. Pious church & school for barricade at TV station. pic.twitter.com/e3WNlg8AuN— Justin George (@justingeorge) May 13, 2014
Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.