Court

Court

ELKTON — The state has dismissed its criminal case against a woman who played a minor role in a thwarted May 2019 armed robbery at a convenience store near Port Deposit, where a shotgun blast went through the ceiling as an employee struggled to gain control of the weapon pointed at him, according to the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office and court records.

In reaching the decision not to prosecute the defendant, Halie Elizabeth Bridges, 24, of Street, the state considered Bridges’ cooperation with investigators and her willingness to cooperate with prosecutors. Bridges has three co-defendants, all of whom played bigger parts in the foiled armed robbery and all of whom have been convicted in their cases. Two them have been sentenced, while the third is awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors dismissed all 11 charges against Bridges, including three felony counts of armed robbery, first-degree assault and robbery on Monday, court records show. Investigators identified Bridges as one of the alleged planners of the armed robbery and reported that she purportedly occupied a passenger’s seat in the getaway vehicle, according to court records.

Co-defendants’ cases

In December, one of Bridges’ co-defendants, Donald Lee Burton, now 30, of Perryville — identified as the gunman — received a 25-year prison term for his role in the stymied armed robbery, which occurred at approximately 12:15 a.m. on May 29, 2019 at the Landhope Farms store in the 1200 block of Jacob Tome Highway.

A store worker is credited with foiling the armed robbery by grabbing the shotgun that Burton was pointing at him, prosecutors reported.

The shotgun discharged during the struggle, sending a blast through the store ceiling as the employee successfully wrested the firearm away from Burton, prosecutors said. At that point, prosecutors added, Burton and one of his co-defendants, Austin James Kozlowski, now 22, of Havre de Grace, fled from the store.

When the shotgun went off, the barrel was inches away from the employee’s head, according to prosecutors.

During that December sentencing, Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes stressed to Burton the different ways such a “serious situation” could have gone horribly wrong.

“You’re lucky he wasn’t killed by you. You’re also lucky (that), when he got the gun away from you, he didn’t blast you with it. You’d be dead,” Baynes said, after commenting, “We can’t tolerate a dangerous situation like this.”

Baynes specifically imposed a 15-year sentence on Burton for attempted armed robbery and a consecutive 10-year sentence for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony or a crime of violence. Under state law, the first five years of Burton’s firearm sentence is mandatory.

Baynes also imposed concurrent 15-year and 10-year sentences on Burton for mirroring conspiracy convictions.

Burton pleaded guilty to those four charges as part of a plea deal.

Also occurring in December, Kozlowski received two concurrent 10-year sentences after he pleaded guilty to attempted armed robbery and use of a firearm in a felony or a crime of violence. Under state law, Kozlowski must serve the first five years of his prison term relating to his firearm conviction, before he would be eligible for his first parole hearing. Kozlowski had accompanied Burton into the store and was present when the armed robbery took place.

The remaining co-defendant, Nicholaus Joseph Roth, now 27, of Essex, is facing a 10-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery in December, as part of a plea deal. His sentencing originally had been scheduled for April 6, but it was postponed due to coronavirus-related restrictions at the courthouse. Roth’s sentencing is now set for Aug. 5. Investigators identified Roth as the getaway driver, court records show.

During one of those December courtroom hearings, the employee who foiled the armed robbery by grabbing the shotgun gave a verbal victim-impact statement.

“I used to be outgoing and happy-go-lucky. This was an eye-opener. I should be dead, by all rights, but I fought for my life,” the victim told the judge, referring to the shotgun that discharged inches from the side of his head during the struggle.

The incident

According to prosecutors, Kozlowski and Burton — their faces partially concealed by bandanas or handkerchiefs — entered the Landhope Farms together. Prosecutors reported that Burton openly carried a shotgun, while Kozlowski was unarmed.

Meanwhile, Roth and the other alleged accomplice, Bridges, waited outside the store in a silver Ford Taurus.

Store surveillance cameras videotaped the attempted armed robbery.

Burton pointed the shotgun at the victim, striking his neck with the barrel, prosecutors reported. The victim grabbed the barrel and tried to take away the shotgun, prosecutors said. At some point, prosecutors added, Burton punched the victim in the face.

As the victim struggled with Burton to gain control of the shotgun, the firearm discharged while the barrel was near the victim’s head, sending a blast through the ceiling, prosecutors said. At that point, Burton and Kozlowski ran out of the store and got into the getaway vehicle, which then sped away, prosecutors added.

Cecil County Sheriff’s Office Det. Tyler Price arrested Burton and his three co-defendants shortly after the incident.

Tyler was able to link Roth to the silver Ford Taurus, which a store surveillance camera had videotaped — including its license plate — outside the store at the time of the blocked armed robbery, police reported.

Price ran that tag number through a Motor Vehicle Administration database, which showed that the 2015 Ford Taurus was registered to Roth, police said.

On May 30, 2019, CCSO investigators, assisted by Baltimore County Police Department officers, conducted a court-approved search of Roth’s residence, where they arrested him, police added.

Roth confessed to his role in the attempted armed robbery, according to court records. Roth also identified his accomplices, including Kozlowski, who admitted to his involvement, too, after Price arrested him, court records show.

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