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Maryland cops arrest second alleged Batman shooting copycat

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Photo - James Armstead is accused of threatening to carry out a "Batman-style" shooting, like the one at an Aurora, Colo., theater.
James Armstead is accused of threatening to carry out a "Batman-style" shooting, like the one at an Aurora, Colo., theater.
Local,Maryland,Crime,Aubrey Whelan

Maryland cops have arrested a second man in as many weeks who threatened to carry out an Aurora, Colo.,-style mass shooting, they said.

But although both men indicated they planned to carry out mass shootings -- apparently imitating last month's Colorado incident where James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" -- police say they can't charge either man with serious offenses simply because they never carried them out.

James Armstead, 37, of Glen Burnie, was charged last week with threatening to injure a state official and two counts of phone misuse after he allegedly called the Anne Arundel County Child Support Enforcement Office and threatened to kill employees and himself, "Batman-style," Annapolis police said. Armstead said he would bring an AK-47 or "other military-style weapons" to the office, police said.

Neil Prescott, 28, of Crofton, was charged with one count of telephone misuse two weeks ago. Prince George's County police said he had told an employer that "I am a joker, I'm gonna load my guns and blow everybody up."

Though police found a slew of guns when they searched Prescott's house -- all, they said, legally owned -- they found no weapons at Armstead's house. They did, however, uncover evidence he was looking into obtaining an AK-47.

Maryland officials in recent weeks have raised questions about whether the state should charge individuals who make generalized threats via phone or email. Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks said last week she would lobby the state to enact laws that would criminalize those threats after Alexander Song, a former University of Maryland student, threatened a mass shooting on campus but was charged only with disturbing the peace at a school or college and misuse of telephone facilities.

Detective Amy Miguez, an Annapolis police spokeswoman, said police typically can't bring charges in cases involving violent threats but no actual violence.

"If you haven't done anything, there's very little that you can be charged with, and that's probably as it should be," she said. "A lot of people say, 'Well, he said he was going to do X, Y and Z.' There's a lot of people that say they're gonna do a lot of things that they don't necessarily do. We can't just arrest anyone who says things like that."

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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