TOWSON, Md. -- A truck driven by a man claiming to be God rammed a Baltimore-area Scripps sister TV station Tuesday, leaving a gaping hole in the front of the building as reporters and other staff fled the chaotic scene.
The man was taken into custody after an almost five-hour search Tuesday afternoon. Police said they didn't know of a motive and didn't find weapons in the truck.
The suspect was not injured but is mentally ill and has been taken for treatment, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.
"It's very clear the subject is suffering from emotional or mental health issues," Police Chief James Johnson said.
Michael Marion was in his office off WMAR-TV's lobby when he heard someone rattling violently against the security door about 11:45 a.m. The man demanded to be let in, claiming "I am God, I am God," Marion said.
"I heard a series of crashes," Marion said outside the building. "The next thing, I looked in the lobby, and the only thing between truck and the lobby was the final door. I heard one final crash. I looked through the door, and by then the truck was pulling in the lobby."
Stay away from ABC2 on York road in Towson. Person just rammed station with dump truck. It's a crime scene. Male suspect, potentially armed.— ABC2NEWS (@ABC2NEWS) May 13, 2014
So here is my first hand reporter's account (odd btw): suspect tried to get in building screaming LET ME IN and said he was God. 1/2 #Team2— Brian Kuebler (@BrianfromABC2) May 13, 2014
2/2: got into a landscaping truck and rammed the building like 3 times. I saw last 3 as he broke through into lobby. #Team2— Brian Kuebler (@BrianfromABC2) May 13, 2014
Everyone inside evacuated safely, News Director Kelly Groft said in a phone interview.
"Once the lobby started to collapse, we knew it was time to get out," she said. "He drove right through the doors and into the main area."
A hole the size of several garage doors could be seen in the front of the two-story building, with a newsroom and studio on the first floor.
About 120 people work at the station. The building sits on a busy street connecting the suburbs with Baltimore, near the city-county line, and though parts of the road were blocked, drivers could still access an adjacent shopping center.
Next door, a school had been locked down, but students - escorted by staff to their parents - began leaving about 2:30 p.m. The truck belonged to a landscaping company and was stolen from a work site less than 5 miles from the scene, police said.
Authorities said they were careful about releasing information during the incident because they knew the suspect was watching the news.
He "was watching different channels, watching you report this story," Johnson told reporters. "We could view him watching TV."
He said officers used unspecified "technology" to locate the man on the second floor and used a police dog to help arrest him. He said the arrest was "without incident," but the suspect had a golf club with him at the time. The truck belonged to a landscaping company and was stolen from a work site less than 5 miles from the scene, police said.
Police received a 911 call about 11:45 a.m. about a man banging on the door and trying to get into the station, public safety spokeswoman Elise Armacost said. Within minutes, a call reported that a vehicle had come into the newsroom.
Marion said he didn't see anyone get out of the truck, and he and a co-worker moved into a lower portion of the building, where they found a fellow employee in an office who hadn't heard the crash. The group left through the back gate, Marion said.
"Everyone behaved really well," said Marion, the ABC affiliate's head of commercial production. "People of their own volition said, `It's time to leave the building.' No one panicked."
Groft said the station did a headcount, though some people had hopped in cars and drove away. The station also warned employees out on stories not to return to the station.
WMAR broadcast its regular programs while the station was evacuated.
Brian Kuebler, an investigative reporter, said in a phone interview that he heard a commotion from his office and walked into the lobby in time to see the truck's last three rams.
"I never even saw him. I just saw the truck," Kuebler said. "That's when it started to get pretty real. This guy was intent on getting into the building. It was pretty frightening."
When police arrived, they moved everyone back, he said.
"We have the news to do and we're sitting in the parking lot," he said. "It's a little weird. I've never been the story in my career."
On Oct. 15, 1980, WCPO and most of its news staff were held hostage by a man armed with a 9mm J&R M68 semi-automatic rifle and five revolvers.
James Hoskins seized control of WCPO's newsroom and held reporter Elaine Green and her cameraman at gunpoint in the parking lot of WCPO's studios. He then forced his way into the newsroom and took seven more hostages.
Hoskins later shot and killed himself while on the phone with SWAT negotiators.