BALTIMORE (NBC News) – An intruder dressed in a panda outfit and vowing to blow up a Baltimore TV station was shot by police Thursday when he left the building and marched towards the cops.
The man was hit at least three times outside the WBFF-TV studio and as he lay on the pavement a robot dispatched to search him found a phony bomb made from chocolate candy bars wrapped in aluminum foil, a Baltimore police spokesman said.
“When he walked out on the street he posed a threat to the community,” said the spokesman, T.J. Smith. “We were trying to get him to show us his hands.”
Three officers fired at the suspect — a 25-year-old man from the Baltimore suburbs — and hit him three times, Smith added. He was in serious but stable condition and “expected to survive.”
Smith did not identify the suspect and described his ensemble as “a panda onsie type outfit.”
Underneath, Smith said, the man was wearing what appeared to be a red flotation vest of some kind “with devices that look like explosives.”
The chocolate bomb has “wires attached with a mother board” and more wires “running down the sleeve of a jacket emulating a detonator,” Smith said.
The drama began around 1:20 p.m. when the oddly-dressed man entered the lobby of the FOX-TV affiliate and said he had some information to share on a flash drive about a government cover-up involving “black holes and the sun.”
Security guard Jourel Apostolidies told a reporter at his station that he stopped the man from reaching the newsroom while quietly calling 911 and alerting his co-workers to evacuate.
“My first thought was to get him out,” he said. “My first instinct was to make sure he keeps his cool head.”
Meanwhile, a police SWAT team arrived and began negotiating with the intruder, who had barricaded himself inside the vestibule, Smith said.
When the man finally came out, police were waiting for him.
The station head also spoke to the suspect.
“I came down at one point not knowing the person was in the lobby, near the vestibule area,” WBFF News Director Mike Tomko told reporters.
“He talked to me and was wearing what appears to be a full body white panda suit, surgical mask and sunglasses.”
“He had a flash drive, said he had information he wanted to get on the air. He compared it to the information found in the Panama Papers,” Tomko added. “I told him, ‘I can’t let you in, you’re going to have to leave the flash drive here and slide it through the opening.’ He wouldn’t do that. Apparently he had made some threats before.”