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Deputy makes tough call at standoff

April 13, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A Washington County sheriff's deputy Thursday came face to face with a man authorities say may have been trying to force an officer to shoot him.

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Deputy Johnny Marshall was on patrol when he saw a parked car for which police were searching in connection with an incident involving a masked man at Boonsboro Pharmacy earlier in the day.

Thinking the driver was still in the car, Marshall pulled into the driveway off Sharpsburg Pike and ordered him to get out of the vehicle.

The car was empty, however. Moments later, a man emerged from behind a pair of evergreen trees. He was screaming and had his hands inside his pants as if he had a gun, according to police.

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Other officers were en route, but for a few tense minutes, Marshall, gun drawn, was alone with the man he feared might be armed.

"He wouldn't cooperate with us," Marshall said. "Things kind of went downhill from there."

Marshall estimated the standoff lasted between 15 and 20 minutes, until a police dog wrestled the man to the ground.

"You revert back to your training," Marshall said after the 38-year-old Hagerstown resident was taken into custody.

Maryland State Police determined he was armed only with a pair of pliers.

Maryland State Police Cpl. Greg Spickler, who arrived later, said Marshall had been in one of the toughest situations an officer can face.

"You're standing there not knowing, thinking the worst," he said. "You don't want to make a wrong decision, but you don't want to be caught off guard. It's a tough call, it really is."

Trooper 1st Class Michael Potter said the man, whose identity was not released, had been committed for a psychiatric evaluation.

Spickler said authorities received reports Wednesday night that the same man was suicidal and threatened to commit a robbery in order to provoke a fatal police shooting.

Spickler said that may have been his motive on Thursday.

"Go ahead and shoot me. Go ahead and kill me," Spickler said the man told police officers.

The incident began around 5 p.m. when a man pulled a red Daewo Nubira into the Boonsboro Pharmacy parking lot.

He backed the car to the store's front door, popped his trunk and placed plastic bags over the front and rear license plates, according to police. He also pulled a net-type mask over his face.

Alerted to the scene outside, store employees locked the doors and funneled customers to the back of the room, pharmacist Todd Holland said.

Holland said he watched through the window for about five minutes as the man fidgeted by the trunk of the car. He said the masked man was holding what looked like a toy remote control.

"He never said anything, never made any attempt to come in here. But it was certainly very suspicious," Holland said.

After a customer went to the door and discovered it was locked, Holland said the masked man got back into the car and drove away.

After he was certain the man was gone, Holland said he re-opened the store.

An area resident who witnessed the incident followed the man and gave a description to police.

"I could see him, but I don't think he could see me," said the witness, who asked not to be identified.

The man ended up at the Sharpsburg Pike farmhouse, just north of Lappans Road, where police say he cut a screen door and unscrewed the fuses.

"I was wondering why I didn't have any lights," said the woman who lives at the house.

The 83-year-old woman said she was out back feeding her cats and did not realize someone was trying to break in.

"I'm glad I had the doors all locked," said the woman, who asked not to be identified. "I don't know what he would have done if he had gotten into the house."

Police said they were able to distract the man and then Deputy James Grimm released his police dog, who bit the man on the shoulder. Medics bandaged his bleeding arm and shoulder and then took him to Washington County Hospital.

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