Fed up? Armed man at­tacks speed cam­era in Mary­land

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY MERED­ITH SOMERS

A man dressed in a flan­nel shirt wield­ing a shot­gun and a ham­mer at­tacked a ve­hi­cle mounted with speed cam­eras that was parked along the Bal­ti­moreWash­ing­ton Park­way on July 6, caus­ing ma­jor traf­fic de­lays and a man­hunt that con­tin­ued into the night.

A Mary­land State Po­lice-led search that in­cluded he­li­copters, ar­mored ve­hi­cles, canine dogs and of­fi­cers be­gan just af­ter 11:30 a.m. when the suspect slipped back into the heav­ily wooded area bor­der­ing the park­way about two miles from Bal­ti­moreWash­ing­ton In­ter­na­tional Thur­good Mar­shall Air­port.

No one was hurt and the man’s mo­tive re­mained un­clear, though po­lice said it was a “log­i­cal pos­si­bil­ity” that he was pro­voked by the pres­ence of the speed cam­eras.

Mary­land State Po­lice de­scribed the suspect in the at­tack as a white male about 60 to 65 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds. Wear­ing what ap­peared to be a red-and-blue plaid shirt and blue jeans on a June day ap­proach­ing 90 de­grees, the man walked out of the woods with a weapon in each hand and ap­proached a white Jeep sport util­ity ve­hi­cle parked on the south­bound side of In­ter­state 295, Mary­land State Po­lice spokesman Greg Ship­ley said.

The driver of the Jeep was an em­ployee of Texas-based Af­fil­i­ated Com­puter Ser­vices State and Lo­cal So­lu­tions, which is con­tracted by the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion to mon­i­tor ve­hi­cles for speed­ing through work zones.

The man “rapped on the back win­dow with a shot­gun” be­fore com­ing to the driver’s side win­dow to yell at the driver, Mr. Ship­ley said. The man in the Jeep told po­lice he couldn’t un­der­stand what the as­sailant was yelling as he smashed the ve­hi­cle’s win­dow.

The vic­tim honked his horn and then jumped out of the ve­hi­cle and crouched by a guardrail while the suspect struck the wind­shield. The suspect left two large breaks in the glass be­fore flee­ing back into the woods the way he came.

Mr. Ship­ley said no shots were fired. He said the vic­tim was “shaken up but not phys­i­cally in­jured.”

Fear­ing an armed man on the loose near the heav­ily trav­eled road­way, state troop­ers and Anne Arun­del County Po­lice quickly shut down the stretch of high­way north­bound from Route 100 and south­bound at In­ter­state 695, as well as the ramps on and off the park­way. About 50 law en­force­ment per­son­nel con­ducted a search for the suspect.

Driv­ers who nor­mally ex­pect a steady traf­fic pat­tern found them­selves at a stand­still by mid­day, as po­lice with heavy weapons combed the forested and com­mer­cial ar­eas along the park­way and he­li­copters cir­cled above look­ing for the suspect amid a green-and-gray land­scape.

BWI of­fi­cials posted a no­tice on the air­port web­site warn­ing trav­el­ers of traf­fic de­lays around the air­port as a re­sult of the in­ci­dent, as live footage of the search was broad­cast na­tion­wide on cable news sta­tions.

Char­lie Gis­chlar, a spokesman for the Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said park­way de­tours cre­ated “a real mess,” and even the agency couldn’t reach its crew work­ing in the closed-off area.

Mr. Gis­chlar said a crew was work­ing on widen­ing both sides of 295 be­tween the Bal­ti­more Belt­way and 195, and the cam­era op­er­a­tor was en­forc­ing speed­ing laws in that area. The state started the au­to­mated-speed­cam­era pro­gram in 2009 in part to help re­duce ac­ci­dents in work zones.

Driv­ers can be fined $40 if they are caught driv­ing through a work zone at 12 miles faster than the posted speed limit, and signs are posted around mon­i­tored ar­eas.

But the traf­fic cam­eras have proved con­tro­ver­sial with citi- zens who think their pri­mary pur­pose is to gen­er­ate rev­enue rather than pro­vide for pub­lic safety.

If the at­tack was mo­ti­vated by the cam­eras, it would not be the first in the coun­try in re­cent years.

Mont­gomery County, the first Mary­land county to im­ple­ment the cam­eras, has re­ported a se­ries of in­ci­dents of van­dal­ism af­fect­ing speed cam­eras or alert­ing driv­ers to their pres­ence.

In 2007, a Ten­nessee man shot a speed cam­era when it snapped a photo of his speed­ing car. A year later, an Ari­zona driver repo­si­tioned traf­fic cam­eras in col­li­sion-prone in­ter­sec­tions to al­ter their point of view.

In 2009, a speed-cam­era op­er­a­tor was fa­tally shot in Ari­zona by an an­gry driver who is now serv­ing a 22-year sen­tence for mur­der.

AAA Mid-At­lantic spokesman John Townsend said the re­cent at­tack was at the very least mis­guided be­cause the cam­era was in a le­git­i­mate work zone.

“But it shows you how wide­spread the mis­trust is be­com­ing,” he said. “No one jus­ti­fies an at­tack like this, but peo­ple are re­ally up­set about the cam­eras.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hit, hit, hit and run: Lawen­force­ment of­fi­cials pre­pare to search the woods near a smashed speed-cam­era con­trac­tor’s ve­hi­cle on the Bal­ti­more-Wash­ing­ton Park­way in Linthicum, Md., on July 6.

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