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Mass shooting plot in Maryland thwarted, police say

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Local,Maryland,Crime,Naomi Jagoda

Authorities in Maryland said they have thwarted a terror threat by a man who seems to have been inspired by the attack at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

On Wednesday, Prince George's County police received a call from Pitney Bowes, a software and mailing-equipment supplier located at 9140 East Hampton Blvd. in Capitol Heights. According to a court document, Neil Prescott had said in two telephone calls to a supervisor that he would hurt people at the federal facility.

"I am a joker, I'm gonna load my guns and blow everybody up," the man said, according to the document.

On Thursday, Anne Arundel County police spoke to the man and were concerned, police said. Prescott was wearing a shirt that stated "Guns don't kill people. I do."

A district court judge on Thursday issued a search warrant for the Prescott's residence and an order for a mental health evaluation. About 3:20 a.m. Friday, the search warrant was executed in the 1600 block of Parkridge Circle in Crofton, and Prescott surrendered without incident and was taken to Anne Arundel County Medical Center, police said. Charges had not yet been filed Friday afternoon, and authorities said they were looking at state as well as possible federal charges.

About 25 firearms and several thousand rounds of ammunition were recovered in the search, an ATF official said. The firearms were described as semiautomatic.

Twelve people were killed and 58 wounded last week when a gunman opened fire in a theater during a midnight screening of the "The Dark Knight Rises." The suspect in that incident died his hair orange-red and had reportedly told officers that he was the Batman villain "The Joker."

Magaw said that he thinks that because of the Maryland man's joker comment, "it's fairly obvious" that he was motivated by the Aurora shooting.

"In light of what happened a week ago in Aurora, Colorado, it's important to know... that we take all threats seriously," Magaw said.

There was no specific timetable for the Maryland attack, but police treated it as if it would be imminent, Magaw said. Although police can't quantify what was thwarted, Magaw said they believe "a violent episode was avoided."

A spokeswoman for Pitney Bowes said that Prescott worked for a subcontractor for the company, and that he "has not been on any Pitney Bowes property in more than four months."

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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