TOWSON, Maryland - A man who crashed into a TV news station near Baltimore, Maryland and barricaded himself inside was taken into custody about 5 hours after the incident began Tuesday morning.
The suspect, who was later identified as 27-year-old Vladimir Baptiste, was ranting and raving incoherently when he was arrested, Baltimore County police said. The man was armed with a golf club when he entered the WMAR-TV building, Police Chief Jim Johnson said.
"Suspect was found sitting in upstairs editing bay holding a golf club," ABC2 News reporter Roosevelt Leftwich tweeted. The man surrendered without incident. Police believe he is mentally ill.
Police said the tactical team was able to see the suspect watching TV news coverage when officers swarmed into that second-floor editing room and took him into custody.
According to ABC2/WMAR-TV, the man was screaming when he repeatedly tried to get inside their building at about 9:45 a.m. MT.
An investigative reporter with ABC2 News, Brian Kuebler, tweeted "suspect tried to get in building, screaming LET ME IN and said he was God."
The man then rammed the front lobby at least three times with a dump truck and then ran inside.
Michael Marion, a production manager at ABC2 News, saw the truck crash through the lobby doors.
"I was looking at the truck hoping to get a license plate when he then made a sharp right hand turn into the alcove and proceeded to first ram the building closest to York Road, appeared to get hung up on the metal railing," Marion said. "He had smashed through the first section and then all that was between the truck and him was the main door. I heard another smash and the last thing I saw was the truck fully in the lobby."
Police said the dump truck he had used was stolen from a state highway subcontractor shortly before the incident.
The suspect was seen wearing a black satchel when he ran in, which heightened alerts that he may be armed.
The building was quickly evacuated, and a nearby school was placed under lockdown.
The suspect made "some sort of contact" with the security guard who began to evacuate the building, Johnson said.
Most employees ran out the back, said ABC2 News Anchor Jamie Costello.
One WMAR-TV employee had to be escorted out of the building by tactical officers after sheltering in place for several hours.
WMAR-TV news director Kelly Groft then Tweeted that all of the employees were accounted for and safe.
Roughly 120 employees work in the building, said E.W. Scripps, which owns WMAR-TV and KMGH-TV.
Most of the WMAR staff took to Twitter to deliver information as engineering crews worked to set up a makeshift studio outside the building so the news team could get back on the air.
"Just really unnerved and confused," Kuebler wrote on Twitter. (See full recap of their Tweets below.)
Maryland State Police helped Baltimore County tactical officers in their search for the suspect in the building. Tactical units were able to locate and isolate him in the building using technology, police said.
No injuries were reported.
Baltimore County police tweeted that no shots were fired.
Tools were found inside the dump truck but there was no indication that firearms were used in the incident, Baltimore County police said. The tools were machetes believed to belong to the highway workers, WMAR reported.
The suspect's mother, Merizia Saindor Baptiste, said Vladimir had a history of drug use beginning when he was 21 years old. She said he started hanging with the wrong crowd, which caused his life to start spiraling out of control. It remains unconfirmed if drugs played a role in the incident Tuesday.
Baptiste was in and out of rehab programs from much of his 20s, Merizia said. He was supposed to be at drug or rehab class Tuesday.
During the standoff, Baptiste allegedly sent several tweets, including:
chillin @ abc2 news waiting and yawning— Vladimir M. Baptiste (@VlaDziuBaptiste) May 13, 2014
YOU DONT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ME RIGHT NOW, THE PEOPLE YOU ALL HAVE HURT ARE GOING TO DEAL WITH YOU! WATCH— Vladimir M. Baptiste (@VlaDziuBaptiste) May 13, 2014
On Oct. 15, 1980, WCPO in Cincinnati, Ohio and most of its news staff were held hostage by a man armed with a 9mm J&R M68 semi-automatic rifle and five revolvers. WCPO is another station owned by the E.W. Scripps Company.
James Hoskins seized control of WCPO's newsroom and held reporter Elaine Green and her cameraman at gunpoint in the parking lot of WCPO's studios. He then forced his way into the newsroom and took seven more hostages.
Hoskins later shot and killed himself while on the phone with SWAT negotiators.