Self-described ‘joker’ arrested for threatening Lanham workplace admitted for mental health care -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated 2:14 p.m., Aug. 1, 2012.

The Crofton man who allegedly called himself a “joker” and was arrested Friday for threatening to blow up a postage machine supplier in Lanham, has been admitted to the Anne Arundel Medical Center where he is receiving mental health care, Prince George’s County police officials said.

Neil Edwin Prescott, 28, was charged Wednesday with misuse of telephone facilities and equipment. The misdemeanor charge carries the possibility of three years in prison and/or a $500 fine, said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks in a statement Wednesday.

Prescott was taken into custody for allegedly threatening to “blow everyone up” at postage machine supplier Pitney Bowes in Lanham, from which officials say he was about to be fired.

About 3:20 a.m., Anne Arundel County police raided Prescott’s home in a search warrant filed in Prince George’s County District Court. There, police found a cache of 25 guns — including semi-automatic pistols and rifles — and several thousand rounds of ammunition, police said. The finding marked the culmination of a 36-hour investigation by police in Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties, police officials said.

According to the warrant filings, among the weaponry found in Prescott’s apartment were an assault rifle, three shotguns, a “high power rifle scope,” a black bag filled with pistol and rifle magazines and “40 large steel boxes of ammo of various calibers.”

County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw said his agency received a call July 25 from the suspect’s supervisor, who said he had been threatened twice over the phone.

“Over the course of two conversations with his supervisor, he made significant threats,” Magaw said. “He said, ‘I’m a joker, and I’m going to load my guns and blow everyone up.’”

Prince George’s County Deputy Chief Hank Stawinski said that although the “joker” comment seemed to be a reference to last month’s mass shooting at the premiere of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in which the suspect also referred to himself as the Joker, there was no indication that the potential incident was connected.

“We’d take this investigation every bit as seriously [without that statement],” Stawinski said. “Officers’ concern was elevated at every turn during this investigation... Everything led us to believe that he had the capability to carry out his threats.”

Anne Arundel County police Maj. Edward Bergin said that once it was determined that Prescott lived in Crofton, Anne Arundel officers went to the suspect’s residence in the 1600 block of Parkridge Circle on the morning of July 26.

“During the interview, he was wearing a T-shirt that said, ‘Guns don’t kill people, I do,’” Bergin said.

Police said a district court judge signed a search warrant and a court order for an emergency mental health evaluation that evening. Members of Anne Arundel County police’s Quick Response Team evacuated part of the suspect’s apartment complex, and Prescott was apprehended without incident, Bergin said.

“Any individual who is considered to be a danger to themselves or others warrants the emergency petition [for mental health evaluation],” Bergin said. “That takes priority over any criminal charges.”

Although there was no specific timetable as to when the suspect may have carried out an attack, Magaw said police considered the threat to be “imminent, based on his conversations with co-workers.”

Carol Wallace, a spokeswoman for the Stamford, Conn.-based Pitney Bowes, wrote in an email to The Gazette that Prescott “was the employee of a subcontractor” to Pitney Bowes and had not been on company property in four months.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said in a statement that the collaboration may have saved the lives of countless people.

“The outstanding cooperation and communication between law enforcement agencies was critical to preventing another mass shooting tragedy in our country,” Baker said. “In the wake of the tragic shootings in Colorado, we are all fully aware of the destruction one individual can do... Today’s news is a testament that when we all work together, lives can be saved.”

Police said they had no information as to how the suspect acquired the weapons seized or whether they were bought legally.

ewagner@gazette.net

Staff Writer Margarita Raycheva contributed to this story.