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Baltimore County Police and Fire News

Official News Blog of Baltimore County police, fire, homeland security and emergency management. Call 911 to report crimes in progress and emergencies.
Date: Aug 1, 2018

It's been over a year since a masked suspect entered an apartment in Lansdowne and demanded money from a sleeping resident. Police are now asking for help from the community to bring this masked criminal and his co-conspirators to justice and return some sense of security to this victim and the rest of the neighborhood.

Last July a 67-year-old man awoke in the middle of the night, slid open the sliding glass door to his apartment balcony, and let his cat out to get some fresh air. He left the door cracked open and returned to bed. He awoke around 4 a.m. to a masked man with a gun in his bedroom tapping on his foot and demanding money "and all you got." The man knew what the criminal was looking for - his prescription Oxycontin and Methadone - because it wasn't the first time someone had broken into his apartment to steal his medications.

The man told the criminal he didn't have anything, because he didn't. He had long since removed his medications from his home and began storing them at a different location in an attempt to dissuade intruders from breaking in to steal them. The man was aware that a number of other residents knew about his prescriptions, as well as some unsavory women he'd spent time with, and word got around. He had hoped that word would get around that the drugs were no longer there, but this criminal hadn't gotten the message.

Something must have convinced the criminal that the man was telling the truth. He left without taking a thing or injuring the man.

Detectives got right to work after the man reported the home invasion, scouring the area for witnesses and clues. Neighbors didn't want to talk. Did they know something? Were they afraid? Information that was provided by some ended up leading detectives to dead ends. Eventually, the investigation came to a standstill. But police had one more card to play.

During the investigation, detectives recovered surveillance video from the outside of the apartment complex, and on it were the faces of the masked criminal's cohorts. The images aren't clear, but as Detective Williams said, "If you know them, you know them." Police are hoping you know them, and a year later will feel safe enough to come forward with their identities. "When you see such a brazen crime as this you know this ain't their first rodeo, and won't be their last. We just hope we can get them off the street before they hurt someone."

Police are now releasing a compilation video showing how the three suspects crept around outside the apartment complex in the dead of night, walking into one building, where you get a pretty good look at the unmasked suspects - a thin black woman who appears to play the part of the look-out, and another thin black man. In a second segment you see the trio attempt to get into the man's apartment by entering the apartment building and trying his front door, but when that doesn't work the masked black male suspect can be seen pulling out his gun and climbing up on the balcony where he entered through the sliding glass door that was left ajar.

You can help return a sense of security to this man and to the Lansdowne community. Watch this surveillance video on our YouTube channel and if you recognize any of these suspects call police at 410-307-2020 or at the Wilkens Precinct directly at 410-887-5163. You can remain anonymous.

Detectives from the Wilkens Precinct Investigative Services Unit are waiting to hear from you.

Today, August 1, marks the 47th anniversary of the Baltimore County Fire Service 's most tragic day, when four firefighters and four civilians were swept to their deaths in a flash flood in eastern Baltimore County.

The fallen are Charles Hopwood, 42 and Douglas Mueller, 18, of the Cowenton Volunteer Fire Department [now the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Co.]; and Milton DeSombre, 49, and Warren E. Shafer, 23, of the Bowleys Quarters Volunteer Fire Department.

"Please take a moment today to remember their sacrifice," said Fire Chief Kyrle W. Preis III. "The passage of nearly five decades does not in any way lessen the magnitude of the heroism on display that day."

Two other Cowenton firefighters, Robert Carr and William Barton, survived but were injured. Robert Carr, who was swept away early in the incident, was rescued after clinging to a telephone pole for 3 1/2 hours.

The disaster culminated in the evening of August 1, 1971. All day, severe thunderstorms carrying torrential rain -- storms reminiscent of the ones the County has endured this year -- tore through the east side of the County. These storms caused widespread flooding and destruction. According to BCoFD's official report on the incident, career and volunteer fire crews, police and citizens all worked furiously to respond to calls for rescue and assistance -- many involving people trapped in vehicles.

Bean Creek at Philadelphia Road and Bush Street

By evening, Bean Creek, a tributary of the Big Gunpowder Falls and normally a small, quiet stream running under Philadelphia Road, "was a raging monster because of the heavy rains and it had overflowed its banks," according to the BCoFD report.

Fire crews responded to numerous calls in the area of Philadelphia Road and Bush Street when a white, four-door Chevy automobile carrying four people drove into rushing, rising floodwaters until the car stalled. The official report notes that the floodwaters quickly rose above the bumper, and "the firemen had difficulty keeping their footing."

Cowenton's Robert Carr -- the firefighter who survived by clinging to a telephone pole  -- washed away first.

The report describes the moment when the firefighters, the Chevy and its occupants and a tow truck driver who stopped to help were dragged under:

"When towing resumed a second time, the water was near hood level. The car then raised up and floated approximately 30 feet sideways and resettled. The occupants were still in the car. The firefighters and tow truck operator were still hanging onto the car. Mr. Woods (the driver) hollered to the occupants inside the car to jump out. By this time the water was over their laps. They opened both doors on the left side and jumped into the flood water."

A firefighter who survived the incident said he saw "the car and occupants, firemen and the tow truck driver, being washed away. The car crested on what seemed to be a wave, washed over the now river-like stream and went under. All of the would-be rescuers went in with the car. The front end of the car bobbed to the surface for a few seconds and then disappeared down through the trees." The time was 8:35 p.m.

Of 10 people carried away by the floodwaters, eight lost their lives: The four firefighters, the tow truck driver and three of the four occupants of the car (a couple, both 49, and a 44-year-old man).

Lessons for Today

This terrible incident is often attributed -- incorrectly -- to Hurricane Agnes, which occurred nearly a year later, in June 1972.

The August 1, 1971 disaster was not part of any named tropical storm. Rather, it was the product of a single stalled thunderstorm, the kind that occur with regularity in the mid-Atlantic and similar to the storms and heavy rains that recently devastated nearby Ellicott City and areas of western Baltimore County and created dangerous conditions throughout the region.

"For today's first responders and residents, the 1971 tragedy carries important lessons," Chief Preis said. "It reminds us of the unpredictability of weather, that even 'routine' storms can be life-threatening and that caution, preparation and good decision making really can mean the difference between life and death."

Thirty-one Probationary Firefighters have been assigned to fire stations throughout the County following graduation from BCoFD's Fire-Rescue Academy.

Graduation ceremonies for the 111th Recruit Class were held last night at Loch Raven High School.

These new Fire Department members will spend the next two years as Probationary Firefighters. They will continue their training in the field as they apply the skills learned in the classroom.

The following is a list of the new members and their assignments.

Probationary Firefighters            

PFF Chase C. Bennet - Station 12/Middle River
PFF Johnathan F. Becker - Station 8/Fullerton
PFF Robert A. Carr - Station 18/Randallstown
PFF Chaynce A. Coles - Station 15/Eastview
PFF Samuel J. Conner - Station 1/Towson
PFF Allison S. Cruz - Station 7/Essex
PFF Lydia M. Dickmyer - Station 18/Randallstown
PFF James P. Donnely - Station 16/Golden Ring
PFF Edward J. Flynn - Station 9/Edgemere
PFF Katherine J. Garroway - Station 3/Woodlawn
PFF Justin M. Goodwin - Station 7/Essex
PFF Adam B. Gribble - Station 18/Randallstown
PFF Cortnie M. Hackley - Station 19/Garrison
PFF Jason E. Hammonds - Station 13/Westview
PFF Carolyn L. Hayden - Station 8/Fullerton
PFF Donte O. Hazell - Station 4/Catonsville
PFF Cameron T. Houseman - Station 9/Edgemere
PFF David R. Howard - Station 5/Halethorpe
PFF Brennan Q. Johnson - Station 4/Catonsville
PFF Timothy J. Johnson - Station 17/Texas
PFF Leo W. Kern - Station 9/Edgemere
PFF Tyler A. Leeper - Station 13/Westview
PFF Kelsey D. Marck - Station 5/Halethorpe
PFF Andrea D. Monroe-Bzibziak - Station 7/Essex
PFF Kara M. Mussman - Station 10/Parkville
PFF Matthew D. Norton III - Station 1/Towson
PFF Nadia G. Pechacek - Station 12/Middle River
PFF Anthony M. Rhodes - Station 15/Eastview
PFF Christian J. Sosa - Station 13/Westview
PFF Jacob D. Stroup - Station 15/Eastview
PFF Ashley N. Trzepkowski - Station 55/Perry Hall


Revised June 27, 2017