A Baltimore TV station has been evacuated after a man rammed a truck into the building and is now barricaded inside.
WASHINGTON – Police have located the 29-year-old man who rammed a stolen highway truck into the front of a Baltimore TV station holed up inside an editing room.
“We had a mentally ill suspect who had commandeered a TV station and was watching TV news while the police were assessing situation,” says County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
The unnamed man barricaded himself inside the building that houses WMAR TV on York Road in Towson for more than four hours Tuesday forcing police to go room by room searching for him.
The man’s actions left a gaping hole in the front of the station, locked down a nearby school and closed roads in the area, affecting the afternoon rush.
He was taken into custody without incident. Neither he, nor any of the station employees or police were injured, Kamenetz says.
Because police knew the man was watching the news coverage as the story unfolded, officials intentionally withheld information from the press, which had gathered outside the station, as tactical squads combed the building, Kamenetz says.
Officers were first called to the station at 11:45 a.m. for a report of a man who was banging on the door to the building trying to get inside. A second call quickly came in reporting that a truck was in the lobby, according to county police.
The truck, a stolen vehicle that was left nearby by a State Highway Administration contractor, was found “embedded” near a stairwell beyond the front entrance. The man encountered a security guard and fled through the building, eventually making it to the second floor, says Jim Johnson, Baltimore County police chief.
He was heard ranting incoherently as workers cleared out of the station. Johnson says the man was “mentally or emotionally disturbed.”
The man had access to work tools from the truck, such as machete covers, and was found with a golf club. But police don’t believe he had a gun, Johnson says.
Police are still looking for a bookbag or satchel the man was believed to have with him. They don’t know the man’s motive or whether he intentionally targeted the station, Johnson says.
The man will be taken for a mental evaluation but will eventually face criminal charges, he says.
An orderly exit
Johnson praised station employees for their “orderly” and calm exit.
However police encountered one employee, who had decided to remain in the basement. Police decided he was safer remaining in the building and he was able to help officers as they navigated the building, Johnson says.
Workers calmly grabbed co-workers who didn’t know what had happened and went outside, says station employee Mike Marion.
“People on their own volition said it was time to leave the building,” Marion says.
Marion tells WTOP that he saw a young man bang on the station’s front door, demanding to be let in and claiming to be “God.” When no one let him in, he climbed into a landscaping truck and rammed the building as many as five times.
Police say 55 people were evacuated. News Director Kelly Groft told The Associated Press in a phone interview that station believes everyone inside evacuated safely.
Police had asked the public to avoid the area and closed roads near the station.
Next door, St. Pius X School was locked down as a precaution, according to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“I think the structure is unique. But certainly the incident itself, the invasion of a structure is not unheard of,” Johnson says. “In an area like this where it affected transportation, traffic, commerce in a community and the lives of our great citizens, that’s very significant.”
Stay away from ABC2 on York road in Towson. Person just rammed station with dump truck. It's a crime scene. Male suspect, potentially armed.
— ABC2NEWS (@ABC2NEWS) May 13, 2014
Car into Chan 2 building at 11:45, possible armed suspect inside news station. ^CB
— BACO Public Safety (@BACOPoliceFire) May 13, 2014
We are out of @ABC2NEWS everyone accounted for and safe. All night crew needs to stay away. Day crews in field, same thing.
— Jeff Herman (@JeffABC2News) May 13, 2014
— Shannon Encina (@ShannonEncina) May 13, 2014
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) May 13, 2014
— WMAR Breaking News (@ABC2_ALERTS) May 13, 2014