Suspicious incident shuts down Metro station in Maryland suburb of Washington

Tuesday, October 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TEMPLE HILLS, Md (AP) _ An armed man sprayed a substance into a subway station Tuesday during a scuffle with police, leaving some 35 passengers and transit workers suffering from nausea, headaches and sore throats.

Authorities took the man into custody and said it did not appear to be a terrorist act.

``It appears at this point to be an isolated incident,'' said Prince Georges County Police Chief John Farrell.

Fire department hazardous-material teams in protective rubber suits responded and the sick were being decontaminated at the scene.

Officers said the man apparently had evaded paying the fare when he got on the train, then pulled out a pump-action bottle and sprayed the area in a struggle with police who asked for his identification.

At the next train stop, additional transit police boarded, and the man pulled out a gun and fired a single shot. No one was hit.

Prince Georges County Fire Department Capt. Chauncey Bowers said that after several hours of testing, authorities concluded that pepper spray used by officers may have made the passengers and workers sick.

``The irritation that was suffered quite possibly might have come from the pepper spray that was used to apprehend the suspect,'' he said. ``All indications at the moment are that the substance is a cleaning solution.'' Bowers said those suffering from the symptoms were to be monitored for a several days in case of further symptoms.

Officials identified the suspect only as a 23-year-old male. They declined to provide any other information because he had not yet been charged by Metro transit police. The suspect was being detained at an area hospital, which police refused to name.