Man in 'panda suit' who threatened to blow up Baltimore Fox television station shot by police


A man wearing what authorities described as a "panda outfit" was shot and wounded by police after he entered a Fox TV station in Baltimore and threatened to blow it up on Thursday with a device he displayed in the lobby.

A police robot later was used to remove the man's clothes, and police determined that the device was inert, consisting of chocolate bars wrapped in aluminum foil connected by wires.

The man was hospitalized in serious but stable condition early Thursday, and police said he was expected to survive. Police did not release his identity, but said he was 25 and thought to be from Howard County in Maryland. Police were investigating a motive.

The incident began about 1 p.m., police said, when a strangely dressed man with a suspicious device approached a security guard in the entry of Fox 45.

Jourael Apostolides, the security guard, said the man showed him a flash drive that contained a message about the composition of the sun that the man said he needed to transmit. Apostolides later told reporters outside the station that the man had a "hedgehog onesie" outfit on. The message was that the government was wrong in how it thought about "anything in space,'' Apostolides said.

"I saw him from across the street," Fox reporter Paul Gessler told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. "It was like an all-white painter suit, almost - like a onesie-type suit."

At a news conference, T.J. Smith, communications director for Baltimore police, said officers responded to calls about the man's threat and also about a car on fire in the station's parking lot that either belonged to the man or was "associated" with him.

"It appeared to be arson-related," Smith said. "There was a rag inside of the gas tank area of the vehicle. [There] was no type of explosion; no type of bomb detonated at any time."

The man was struck at least three times when police fired a total of seven shots as he emerged from the building and began advancing toward them, refusing to remove his hands from his pockets as officers commanded, Smith said.

The man fell to the ground outside the station and a robot was brought in to search him for explosives.

"I wish we were in a position to render first aid to him immediately," Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told reporters. But Davis said the man still posed a threat and could have been attempting to trigger an explosive device.

"When you have a noncompliant individual, unfortunately you have to do what you have to do," Smith said.

Apostolides said he was concerned about two other people present when the man allegedly made his threat in the station lobby.

"My first thought was to get them out of there," he said. "Then I tried to calm him down." Apostolides said he offered the man food, water and a seat. Apostolides added: "Everyone needs someone to talk to."

Police said Thursday evening they were investigating the contents of the flash drive.

"Why did he do this?" Smith said. "We don't know the answer to that."

Asked whether the incident might be related to another at ABC2 in Baltimore in 2014, when a man crashed a truck into the station, Davis said: "Public spaces, places where people get their news from . . . are occasionally vulnerable."


(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Justin Wm. Moyer · NATIONAL · Apr 28, 2016 - 7:00 PM



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