ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WUSA) - A Columbia, Md. man has been charged with armed robberies made while using a blood-filled syringe to threaten a pharmacist and a stun-gun device to threaten a mother and child, according to Howard County Police.
Howard County police have charged Benjamin Frederick Blessing, 52, with armed robbery, first- and second-degree assault, theft and reckless endangerment for an early morning robbery earlier this month at an Ellicott City CVS store.
Police have also charged him with armed robbery and first-degree assault for a robbery that occurred last fall at an ATM in Columbia.
In the latest incident, police responded to the CVS in the 3300 block of Centennial Lane on April 18 around 4:20 a.m. for a reported robbery. Employees reported that a man entered the store, walked to the pharmacy counter, and produced a syringe that he said contained AIDS-tainted blood. He held the syringe near the pharmacist's chest and forced her to open a safe containing prescription medication. Some of the blood was dispensed from the syringe but missed the pharmacist.
The pharmacist complied, and the suspect fled with over $27,000 worth of various prescription medications. No one was injured during the robbery.
Surveillance video footage enabled police to identify him as Blessing, of 5279 Golden Sky Court in Columbia. A search and seizure warrant for Blessing's home yielded several items of evidence, including medications stolen during the April 18 robbery.
Police confirmed that the substance in the syringe during the robbery was blood and are testing to determine if it contained the AIDS virus.
Police have also charged Blessing for an incident Oct. 10, 2011, in which he tried to get cash from a woman and her 4-year-old child at an ATM machine.
At that time, the victim reported she and her child were alone in the ATM vestibule at a Bank of America in the 9200 block of Old Annapolis Road around 1 p.m. She told police that a man approached with what appeared to be a stun-gun device in his hand and demanded money. The woman saw a cab pull up to the bank; she pointed to it and shouted to the man that the police were there. The suspect walked out of the bank and the woman ran outside with her child. No one was injured and no money was stolen.
Using surveillance footage, police identified Blessing as the suspect. He is currently being held in the Howard County Detention Center on $170,000 bond.