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Baltimore police arrest MARC passenger carrying a rifle, believed bound for D.C.

(The following story by Justin Fenton appeared on the Baltimore Sun website on November 20.)

BALTIMORE, Md. — Baltimore police arrested a man carrying a semiautomatic rifle aboard a train yesterday morning after a cabdriver flagged down officers and said the man was headed to Washington.

Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said the man, identified as 25-year-old Asa Seeley, mentioned the White House but made no specific threats, though police notified the Secret Service as a precaution. Bealefeld briefed Mayor Sheila Dixon about the incident, pulling her out of a Board of Estimates meeting.

"It looks like he was just trying to make his way back to his residence in D.C. with that assault rifle," Bealefeld said at a news conference.

Seeley was carrying the rifle wrapped in a blanket when he hailed an unlicensed cab about 7 a.m. and asked to be taken to Washington, Bealefeld said. The driver, who noticed part of the rifle, refused to take Seeley there and instead dropped him off at a MARC station in West Baltimore. The driver then got the attention of police in the area.

The man did not brandish the weapon while on the train, but passengers were uneasy and conductors held the train at the station, said Officer Joshua Corcoran, a patrol officer who was one of the first on the scene. When officers located the man, he tried to escape and was shot with a Taser. He jumped off the train platform, landing 20 feet below and injuring his ankle, at which point he was taken into custody.

The weapon, a Chinese SKS semiautomatic rifle, was recovered from the train car, along with a magazine of ammunition, Bealefeld said. That type of military-style rifle is typically more than 3 feet long and fires bullets that can cut through metal and concrete.

Bealefeld said Seeley had been shot in Washington on Aug. 30 and told police he was carrying the weapon for personal protection. He has two open warrants in Washington, dating to Oct. 2 when he was charged with cocaine possession and failing to appear in court.

Seeley also has several arrests and convictions in Baltimore, receiving a three-year prison sentence with all but two years and nine months suspended and three years' probation after pleading guilty to a drug manufacturing charge in 2003. He initially gave the name Jeffrey Springs yesterday, and court records indicate he has used the aliases Davon Thompson and Thomas Smith.

The city paid an undisclosed settlement last year to a Baltimore woman who was injured in a December 2001 car crash when her vehicle was rear-ended by Seeley, who allegedly was driving a stolen Cadillac and being pursued at high speed by a Baltimore police officer. Lawyers for the woman argued that the police chase caused Seeley to disregard traffic rules, causing the crash, according to court records.

Bealefeld said police want to find the cabdriver to thank him for alerting authorities. "This case was really started by a concerned citizen who frankly didn't have to tell us a thing and went out of his way to hail officers and notify us of a threat to public safety."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

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