ANNAPOLIS – Lobbyist Lawrence A. Richardson Jr. sprinted for the open door of the Lowe House Office building Tuesday morning when he heard tires screech and two gun shots in front of Lawyer’s Mall, only feet from the State House.
“I haven’t run that fast since I ran track in high school,” said 46-year- old Richardson, who works for State Farm Insurance.
The lobbyist was one of the bystanders milling on the usually busy corner of College Avenue and Rowe Boulevard as Maryland State troopers fired shots at a stolen Bay’s Best Seafood truck traveling at a high rate of speed through downtown Annapolis.
Police later identified 32-year-old Todd Kenneth Woody of Queenstown, an employee of Bay’s Best, as the driver of the delivery truck.
The chase continued through Anne Arundel County before troopers apprehended Woody in Glen Burnie. Maryland State Police, in a news conference Tuesday afternoon, said Woody admitted to them that he was high on crack cocaine.
Five state troopers suffered minor injuries during the chase in which the unarmed suspect repeatedly rammed his truck into the police cars. There were no other injuries.
But vestiges of the incident remain at the State House complex – a bullet hole in the doorframe of the House office building and black tire tracks in the middle of College Avenue.
The suspect drove the truck onto the curb and collided with a police car on the sidewalk in front of Lawyer’s Mall, where three large rallies were held last week and school children regularly meet to board their school buses after field trips to the State House.
Richardson and other State House regulars were surprised that a shooting happened at such a busy intersection. When they heard the shots people scampered around, crouching near the building or jumping into bushes, said witnesses who told and re-told their story to throughout the day.
“It’s not what you expect in Annapolis,” Richardson said. “Tempers flare on occasion, but this is not what you expect.”
Maryland State Police said they are still investigating the incident, but said they believe officers acted properly when they fired their weapons in the busy intersection.
“The troopers were in fear of their lives,” said Lt. Col. William Arrington, chief of field operations. “They should return force with force.”
Inside the State House Gov. Parris N. Glendening told a people gathered for an 11 a.m. Water Conservation Advisory Committee meeting what happened outside.
“Fortunately, no one was hurt,” Glendening said.
News about the shooting spread throughout the Senate and House floors during the daily session after security guards conferred with members about the incident.
And the heightened security presence in Annapolis brought about by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was taken up another notch. Officers blocked entrances to nearby office buildings, forcing lawmakers and others to use an underground tunnel to access the buildings. Dozens of delegates and staff waited to use the two elevators to get to the tunnel. Business continued as usual with hours of bill hearings on everything from stricter gun laws to preventing hepatitis B. “It’s quite shocking that something like that happened there, in the shadow of the state Capitol,” said Delegate Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s. “This brings home something many of our constituents deal with everyday.” Delegate George W. Owings, D-Calvert, said lawmakers shouldn’t be surprised that a shooting took place near the State House. “We are the most barbaric nation on Earth,” Owings said. “Shooting on a daily basis is a way of life in this country. What’s so special about Annapolis?” But Delegate Brian Moe, D-Prince George’s, was able to wisecrack about the incident hours later. “Luckily no lawmakers were outside, only lobbyists,” he said, “It just goes to show, it’s tough to be a lobbyist in Annapolis.”
The chase began at about 10:30 a.m. at the Eastport Shopping Center on the corner of Americana Drive and Chesapeake Avenue. A police officer approached the driver in the truck on foot. The driver attempted to run over the officer and a chase ensued to State Circle and then in front of Lawyer’s Mall.
There officers placed barriers in the street to try to stop the truck. When the driver again tried to run over a trooper, the officer fired shots. One hit the office building and the other hit the stolen truck.
Richardson was left shaken. Standing on the corner smoking a Marlboro cigarette he told and retold his story for an hour. “Every time I consider giving these up something happens,” Richardson said. “This is not how I planned to spend the morning.” Capital News Service writer Kelley Benham contributed to this report. – 30 – CNS-3-12-02