A man wielding a hammer and a shotgun attacked a speed enforcement vehicle on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway near the BWI Marshall Airport exit Wednesday morning, prompting police to close the highway for several hours.
Police said the assailant was armed, but they discounted early reports of gunfire.
Maryland State Police spokesman Gregory M. Shipley said the attack occurred about 11:30 a.m. in the southbound lanes just north of Interstate 195. He said an older man came out of the woods and approached a parked State Highway Administration Jeep being operated by a speed camera contractor. Shipley said the man tapped on the rear window with a shotgun.
State police said the driver began blowing his horn in alarm, but the man walked to the front of the white Jeep, which had cameras mounted on its hood, and smashed the windshield, leaving large cracks in the glass. The driver then jumped out of the vehicle and crouched near the guardrail as the suspect yelled incoherently, police said.
The driver told police that the suspect, still carrying the hammer and shotgun, walked back into the woods without firing a shot.
Shipley described the suspect as white, about 65 years old, with white hair, standing 5-foot-8 and weighing 150 pounds. He said the man was wearing a blue and red shirt, possibly flannel, and blue jeans.
State police would not identify the occupant of the Jeep, an employee of the contractor. Shipley said the man was "shaken up but not hurt."
State troopers and Anne Arundel County police officers responded with SWAT teams and police dogs, setting up a perimeter around the area. Officers closed the parkway between the Beltway and Route 100 for about three hours before opening it about 2:45 p.m. Traffic also was blocked in other parts of the business district near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, angering some workers.
At midday Wednesday, as many as three state police helicopters flew above the scene, and about 50 officers could be seen in the vicinity. The parkway, also known as Route 295, was clear of all but police vehicles near the interchange. Shipley said that in addition to the state police and county officers, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police also took part in a manhunt that extended to the area around BWI.
Shipley said the search would continue into the night.
Speed camera enforcement has been a controversial issue in Maryland and other states, with some critics calling it an example of "Big Brother" government intrusion. On some occasions, stationary speed cameras deployed by police agencies around the nation have been vandalized.
Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar said his agency's contractor for the speed enforcement is Affiliated Computer Services Inc. Gischlar said the agency has targeted that part of the parkway as a speed enforcement area because it has a work zone in a mile-long stretch between the Beltway and I-195.
Gischlar said he knew of no similar incidents involving SHA speed camera vehicles. Chris Gilligan, an Affiliated Computer Services spokesman, declined to comment.
The area where the attack occurred is home to numerous hotels and government contractors, including some in the defense industry. An entrance to Northrop Grumman is off the Winterson Road overpass over the parkway. Police cars from the National Security Agency, which is south of the airport, could be seen patrolling in the area.
Armed police officers stood guard between the Embassy Suites and the parkway in the spot where the incident occurred. A police blockade prevented commuters, bicyclists and joggers from crossing the Winterson Road overpass. In one case, a jogger trying to run on one of the overpasses was put in a police car and driven across the highway.
Some people who encountered the blockade preventing them from returning to work angrily waited in their cars at the Candlewood Suites parking lot, located adjacent to the obstruction. Others sat patiently on the hotel's lawn chatting with co-workers, but the majority turned around to seek alternate routes.
Ron Sesney, who works for a software development company there, said that before going to lunch with a co-worker he saw someone run through the woods across from Concourse Drive.
"I heard this whoop-whoop of a police car. I looked through the woods and I could see real close somebody running," he said. He thought the man was wearing a beige shirt, but he was not sure, he said.
He looked out and soon saw police in protective vests carrying weapons heading toward the woods that line the roadway.
"It was very tense, a tense situation," he said.
Then he went to lunch, and because of road closures it was hours before he could return to work.