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'Ranting' suspect in custody after barricading himself in TV station

By Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 6:30 PM EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Suspect in custody after slamming into TV station
  • Unidentified man was watching the ordeal on the local news when arrested
  • The truck used in the crash was reported stolen earlier Tuesday, police said
  • Maryland TV station evacuated after truck slams through lobby

(CNN) -- A man who smashed a truck through the lobby of a Maryland TV news station and proclaimed himself God Tuesday was arrested hours later -- watching the ordeal unfold on the local news, authorities said.

The unidentified 29-year-old man, described as mentally ill, was taken into custody without incident after his actions forced the lockdown and evacuation of WMAR and a nearby parochial school in Towson, near Baltimore, police said.

Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson told reporters that SWAT team officers closed in on the suspect as he was "watching different channels" in a station editing room -- "watching you report this story as this incident unfolded."

Aware that the suspect was watching on TV, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said, authorities decided against releasing any information publicly until after the incident.

The official Twitter account of Baltimore County Public Safety said the first call from WMAR was received at 11:45 a.m. There was a report of a disturbance, with a man banging on the door trying to get in.

Within minutes, authorities said, there was another call about a truck crashing into the station lobby. Police said the suspect had "contact" with a security guard before making his way to the second-floor editing room.

"The individual was ranting and raving incoherent statements," Johnson said. "It was clear from the very beginning that we were dealing with an emotionally disturbed subject."

Mike Marion, a commercial production producer at WMAR, told CNN that he was in his office when he heard a loud sound.

"I heard someone rattling the door in a violent manner and screaming started: 'Let me in, let me in, I'm (expletive) God. You have to let me in‎,'" Marion said. "I saw a young ... male in his 20s, no older than 30, blue oxford shirt with a black sling backpack, get into a large racing green landscaping truck. He backed it out of [the] visitors' space ... began ramming the building ... smashed through first section of atrium...The last thing I saw, the truck was fully in the lobby."

Marion said he never saw the suspect get out of the truck. The building was evacuated as officers searched for the suspect. No injuries were reported.

All the while, WMAR journalists could relay information only via Twitter and the station's website. By mid-afternoon, a makeshift newsroom had been set up about a mile north of the station -- but the reporters still had no way to broadcast.

Police said the truck was stolen Tuesday from a subcontractor with the State Highway Administration.

Inside the station, police found sheaths for machetes believed to have been used by workers in the highway truck. They also recovered a satchel with unknown contents. The suspect had a golf club but no firearms, police said.

Johnson said tactical officers responded to an "active shooter" incident, moving slowly and cautiously to the second floor. "We could view him watching TV," the chief said.

A dog was used to subdue the suspect, who was taken for a psychiatric evaluation before facing criminal charges, police said.

The motive was unknown.

CNN's Eric Fiegel contributed to this report.

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