ELLICOTT CITY, Md. – A man who shot a mobile speed camera van with a slingshot in June has a warning for drivers: “Don’t do what I did.”
Bruce Lawrence May, 50, of Ellicott City, was convicted last week of reckless endangerment and malicious destruction of property.
Howard County District Court Judge Mary C. Reese sentenced May to community service, probation and ordered restitution to the owner of the van.
The van was parked along Frederick Road near Manor Woods Elementary School.
“I had already gotten two tickets from these things,” May tells WTOP in an exclusive interview.
“What I did then was very stupid. I had a slingshot in my van and I just lost it.”
May took glass marbles, placed them in his slingshot, leaned out his window and fired several times.
The van operator got into the driver’s seat and followed May, who was eventually arrested.
“The action Mr. May took was completely inappropriate,” says Frederick von Briesen, speed camera program administrator for the Howard County Department of Police.
“It wouldn’t have taken much for him to cross the double yellow line and hit a car going the opposite direction. He could’ve killed somebody.”
Looking back, May agrees it was wrong.
“What I was considering almost prankish could’ve turned out tragically,” says May.
Still at issue is whether the speed camera was there to protect children.
Howard County Police say the Recreation and Parks Department was hosting a summer camp at Manor Woods Elementary School.
But May believes the camera was there when the camp wasn’t in session.
Under Maryland law, speed camera vans can operate from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Monday thru Friday, regardless of when a summer program lets out.
Bruce May says the lesson in this case is for everyone to know his legal rights and not take matters into his own hands.
“Use the legal system to your advantage. Go to court, even if it costs you a day of work. Make them work for their money, instead of just having this roadside ATM machine,” says May.
May points out that Pasadena, Calif. recently scrapped its red-light camera program because too many people challenged tickets in court. Under California law, officers must appear in court, if requested, to defend the tickets.
“In Maryland, you do have the option to confront the officer, confront the speed camera operator and confront the program and data,” von Briesen says.
Drivers are free to file a Freedom of Information Act request on the program, with which Howard County Police must comply.
In court on Aug. 29, May apologized for what he did and expressed remorse.
Back at the scene at Manor Woods Elementary School, he says he’s learned a lot about how to handle his frustration with speed cameras.
“Don’t go off the hook like I did,” says May.
And perhaps there is one positive out of all of this.
Before the accident, von Briesen says people would throw water bottles and coffee cups every week at mobile speed camera vans.
In April, someone in Baltimore County even set a speed camera on fire in Catonsville on South Rolling Road.
“Since the incident where Mr. May was arrested, we have had very few incidents taking place.”