A Crofton, Md., man referring to himself as “a joker” and armed with 25 guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition was taken into police custody after threatening to go on a shooting spree at his former workplace, police announced Friday.
Authorities said a massive attack may have been thwarted as a result.
“We can’t measure what was prevented here but we think a violent episode was avoided,” Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw said.
Officials declined to name the man, as he remains at Anne Arundel Medical Center for psychological evaluations and has not been criminally charged, but a search warrant filed in the case identifies him as Neil Prescott.
Mr. Prescott could remain at the hospital for up to a week, police spokesman Edward Martin said.
It was unclear Sunday when the mental evaluation would be complete, when formal charges could be filed, or exactly what criminal charges he could be facing.
“Everybody is still waiting to see what the most appropriate charges would be,” said John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Prescott, 28, was in the process of being fired from his job at Pitney Bowes in Capitol Heights when he made threats while speaking on the phone with a supervisor.
“I am a joker, I’m gonna load my guns and blow everybody up,” Mr. Prescott said during conversations with the supervisor, adding that he would like to see the man’s brain spattered on the sidewalk, police said.
The inferred reference to the Joker character evoked fear of the carnage that took place earlier this month in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater when a gunman opened fire during a showing of Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The supervisor reported the threats to police, leading Anne Arundel County police on Thursday to contact Mr. Prescott at his Crofton apartment in the 1600 block of Parkridge Circle. When officers spoke to him, they noted he wore a T-shirt that proclaimed “Guns don’t kill people, I do.”
Early Friday morning, police served a search warrant and discovered the cache of weaponry in Mr. Prescott’s apartment, including high-powered rifles and handguns and several loaded guns next to his bed.
There was no clear indication that Mr. Prescott had an intended time for the attack, but police said they wanted to act quickly to prevent harm to the community.
“In light of what happened a week ago in Aurora, Colo., it’s important for the community to know that we take all threats seriously,” Chief Magaw said Friday. “If you are going to make a threat, we are going to take action.”
He had no prior criminal history, according to Prince George’s Deputy Chief Hank Stawinski.
News of the threat and police activity had the Crofton neighborhood where Mr. Prescott lives abuzz.
“With the recent event in Colorado, I think everyone is on edge to hear about something like this,” said neighbor Wilbert Brinson, who didn’t know Mr. Prescott but lived in a building adjacent to his. “People need to be more sensitive to what is going on in people’s lives so that we can support them more so they don’t go over the deep end.”
• Emily Hatton contributed to this report.