BALTIMORE — A young man in an animal costume and surgical mask who walked into a Baltimore TV station Thursday claiming to have a bomb was shot and wounded by police, who determined that his alleged explosive consisted of aluminum-wrapped chocolate bars duct-taped to a flotation device.
The 25-year-old white male was in serious but stable condition at a hospital and expected to survive, said Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith. Smith said the man was from nearby Howard County, but that police would not identify him until they filed charges against him.
The progressively bizarre scene unfolded Thursday afternoon when the man walked into the lobby of Fox affiliate WBFF on Baltimore's TV Hill. The man, wearing what Smith said was a panda suit and what employees described as a hedgehog costume, gave a flash drive to a security guard and told him he wanted the station to broadcast its contents. Smith said police don't know what was on the drive.
The security guard activated an alarm under his desk, and the station was quickly evacuated, WBFF General Manager Bill Fanshawe said. Police say the man barricaded himself in the station.
As police, fire, arson, bomb squad and SWAT teams converged on the scene, a car in the station's parking lot was engulfed in flames. Smith said it was later determined to belong to the man.
When police tried to talk with the man in the lobby, he walked out of the building and into the street, and refused to obey numerous orders by heavily armed officers to show his hands. Police shot him more than once, Smith said, then sent a bomb-detecting robot to him through which they communicated from a distance as he lay on the ground.
The man eventually removed the flotation device. Once the robot had picked it up and rolled away, police and paramedics rushed to him and put him in an ambulance, Smith said.
The faux bomb also contained a motherboard from a fire extinguisher and a wire that ran down the man's sleeve to what looked like a detonator, Smith said.
No one else was hurt, he said. Officers were sweeping the station to make sure the suspect did not leave anything dangerous.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis called the man's behavior "bizarre," and "dangerous."
"This is a very, very unusual event," Davis said.