British Tourist Killed Chasing Thief

What a tragic story, and this wasn’t really that long ago. Maybe some of you remember when this happened? We found the article in The Baltimore Sun, printed on August 23rd, 1981.

An Englishman visiting Baltimore was shot and killed near the 5th Regiment Armory early yesterday morning after he attempted to catch a bicycle-riding thief who had stolen his girlfriend’s purse.

Phillip Rouse, 34, an antiques expert from Hazelbury Plucknett in Somerset county, England, was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:10 a.m. He had been shot once on the left side of his chest with a handgun wielded by one of three men who jumped him as he tried to catch the bicyclist.

Mr. Rouse was staying at the home of a childhood friend — Nigel Lawrence, 34, of the 1500 block of Bolton street — with Carl, his 10-year-old son, and his girlfriend, Anne Bullivant, 21, also of Somerset county.

The three adults were returning home about 2 a.m. after an evening at Girard’s, a disco in the 1000 block Cathedral street, when the incidents leading up the shooting began.

They were walking behind the 5th Regiment Armory in the 900 block Mason street, and alley that parallels North Howard street, when a man on a bicycle rode by. He turned, rode back toward the group, and grabbed Miss Bullivant’s purse as he passed,

“He ripped the bag straight off her shoulder,” Mr. Lawrence recalled yesterday afternoon, adding that he immediately ran off in pursuit of the thief. Mr. Rouse apparently cut through a parking lot in an attempt to head off the bicyclist’s escape.

The robber rode south toward Preston street, then turned west into the parking lot, police reported.

“There were three more [men] waiting by the armory,” Mr. Lawrence continued. “One tried to trip me up, but I jumped over his foot.”

Mr. Lawrence said he was gaining on the bicyclist, and could have caught him, when he heard a noise.

“I didn’t know it was a gunshot,” he said.

Miss Bullivant later told police she saw the three other men come up behind Mr. Rouse as he stood in the parking lot. One tackled him and three him to the ground, and the other two jumped on him.

One of the three then shot Mr. Rouse as he lay on the asphalt, Miss Bullivant said.

Police — who were still searching for the assailants last night — could not say for certain yesterday whether the three were acting in concert with the bicyclist.

If they were, Mr. Lawrence said, the purse snatch that led to the death of Mr. Rouse netted them about $40 — or $10 apiece — and a few credit cards.

Members of the family will fly to Baltimore in a few days to claim the body and take it back to England. Mr. Lawrence said a Baltimore memorial service for Mr. Rouse has not yet been planned.

Gun control will never happen in the United States, Mr. Lawrence said, “because there’s too much money wrapped up in it [gun manufacture]. But they’ve got to do something about it.

“Because there was no need, you see, there was no need” for Mr. Rouse to die, he said.

There was absolutely no need. It’s such a tragic (and common) end to a story like this. What’s even more tragic is that the second group of thugs had nothing to do with the purse theft. The story was unfortunately not uncommon in Baltimore, but it made national headlines in England.

this is a gun
this is a gun

To make it even more tragic, the three men were separately robbing him. Victim of two crimes in about five minutes! The men were teenagers, identified as Michael Brown (18), Michael Saunders (17) and Kenneth Johnson (17), all Baltimore natives. Another 17-year-old tipsters ratted out the group.

Brown was ultimately convicted of felony murder, but acquitted of premeditated, first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison by Criminal Court Judge Milton Allen on January 15th, 1982.

On February 18th of that year, Kenneth Johnson was sentenced to 40 years for second-degree murder and attempted armed robbery. A month later, on March 18th, Saunders was sentenced to 45 years for participating in the crime, 30 years for second-degree murder and 15 years for a handgun violation. He was the admitted trigger man.

A fourth man was also charged in the murder or Rouse, Dwayne Earl Moody (21), who was a social acquaintance of Saunders. In August, Moody pled guilty to second-degree murder in a plea bargain that dropped his sentence to 16 years.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • Mr. DC Memories

    This tragic incident served as the seed for an episode of Barry Levinson’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1994 which guest starred Robin Williams. In the fictional “Homicide” teleplay, it was Williams’ wife who was senselessly killed during the robbery. It also featured one of the earliest appearances of one very young Jake
    Gyllenhaal (whose dad directed this show).