Official: Suspect in TV station crash in custody

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Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 1:13 pm

TOWSON, Md. (AP) -- A man claiming to be God rammed a truck through the front of a Baltimore-area television station Tuesday, leaving a gaping hole as reporters and other staff fled the building.

Police took a suspect into custody Tuesday afternoon, about five hours after the incident, officials said at a news conference. The suspect was not injured but has been taken for mental health treatment, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.

"It's very clear the subject is suffering from emotional or mental health issues," Police Chief James Johnson said. The man's identity was not immediately disclosed.

Michael Marion was in his office off WMAR-TV's lobby when he heard someone rattling violently against the security door about 11:45 a.m. The man demanded to be let in, claiming "I am God, I am God," Marion said.

"I heard a series of crashes," Marion said. "The next thing, I looked in the lobby, and the only thing between truck and the lobby was the final door. I heard one final crash. I looked through the door, and by then the truck was pulling in the lobby."

The station believed everyone inside evacuated safely, News Director Kelly Groft told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

"Once the lobby started to collapse, we knew it was time to get out," Groft said. "He drove right through the doors and into the main area."

A hole the size of several garage doors could be seen in the front of the two-story building, with a newsroom and studio on the first floor. About 120 people work there, according to station owner the E.W. Scripps Co. The building sits on a busy street connecting the suburbs with Baltimore, near the city-county line, and though parts of the road were blocked, drivers could still access an adjacent shopping center.

Next door, a school had been locked down, but students - escorted by staff to their parents - began leaving about 2:30 p.m.

The truck belonged to a landscaping company and was stolen from a work site less than 5 miles from the scene, police said.

Police received a 911 call about 11:45 about a man banging on the door and trying to get inside, public safety spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. Within minutes, a call reported that a vehicle had come into the newsroom.

Marion said the man banging on the security door wore an oxford shirt and had a closed satchel draped across his body. Marion and a co-worker moved into a lower portion of the building, where they found a fellow employee in an office who hadn't heard the crash. The group left through the back gate, Marion said.

"Everyone behaved really well," said Marion, the ABC affiliate's head of commercial production. "People of their own volition said, `It's time to leave the building.' No one panicked."

WMAR broadcast its regular programs while the station was evacuated.

Brian Kuebler, an investigative reporter, said in a phone interview that he heard a commotion and walked into the lobby in time to see the truck's last three rams.

"I never even saw him. I just saw the truck," Kuebler said. "That's when it started to get pretty real. This guy was intent on getting into the building. It was pretty frightening."

When police arrived, they moved everyone back, he said.

"We have the news to do and we're sitting in the parking lot," he said. "It's a little weird. I've never been the story in my career."

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