Rookie trooper stopped Walmart robber
Darrio Parham had been a state police trooper for only about five months when he walked into the Shrewsbury Walmart — and nearly into the business end of a shotgun, according to hearing testimony.
Parham, 39, who is based at the Loganville barracks, was already sitting in a cruiser in the Walmart parking lot the night of April 7 when he received a call about a disorderly person with a knife at the Walmart pharmacy, he said.
The rookie trooper had no way of knowing the person was actually a shotgun-wielding robber who'd just stolen four boxes of the opioid fentanyl and was making his getaway, testimony revealed.
Police allege that man is Thomas Markowski, who appeared Wednesday before Senior District Judge Nancy Edie for his preliminary hearing. At the close of his hearing, Edie determined enough evidence exists for him to stand trial on charges including attempted homicide, assault on a law-enforcement officer with a firearm, aggravated assault and robbery.
A conviction on the charge of assault on a law-enforcement officer comes with a mandatory 20-year sentence, according to chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday.
Defendant a former cop: Markowski, 58, was a Baltimore City police officer for six years, according to his attorney, public defender Ron Jackson Jr.
Parham testified Wednesday against Markowski, who was clad in an orange prison jumpsuit and sitting in a wheelchair.
The trooper said he walked through both sets of front doors at Walmart when he saw Markowski.
“He was coming at me,” Parham said, holding something in a black plastic bag.
"He told me I needed to move out of his way,” and said it several times, Parham testified. "I told him to put down the weapon."
'Kept coming': Neither man complied with the other's demands, Parham said.
"He just kept coming … like I wasn’t there,” the trooper recalled, and he kept telling Parham "you need to move out of my way."
That's when Parham saw part of a gun stock in the trash bag Markowski was holding. Markowski pointed the sawed-off shotgun “straight at me, toward my stomach,” from a distance of about 2 feet, according to the trooper.
“I remember putting my hand on the gun and pushing it away,” Parham testified. “Mr. Markowski, he fired one shot. And that’s when I returned fire.”
After being shot once in the chest, Markowski fell to the ground, according to testimony. No one else was hurt.
Cashier took stand: Stuart Wiener, a Walmart pharmacy cashier, testified he was standing behind Parham when gunshots rang out.
"It happened so fast," he said, then confirmed he recognized the robber as a pharmacy customer he'd assisted once or twice before.
Under questioning by Sunday, Wiener said the shotgun blast struck the wall behind him, about six or seven feet above his head.
Wiener also testified that after being shot, Markowski told the trooper to shoot him again.
Walmart pharmacy technician Terry White testified that when Markowski was robbing the pharmacy, he said he needed the drugs because he was dying. But after the hearing, Sunday said he doesn't know whether Markowski has a terminal illness.
Jackson declined comment after the hearing.
The background: State police allege Markowski used his 500A 12-gauge shotgun during the 7:40 p.m. holdup.
Police said he approached the pharmacy counter in a motorized wheelchair owned by Walmart, the type available at the front of stores for customer use.
He demanded four boxes of the opioid patches, said he had a gun and told White she had five seconds to hand over the fentanyl, charging documents allege.
Markowski abandoned the wheelchair after the robbery and was leaving Walmart on foot when he was confronted by Parham, state police said.
Each box of fentanyl held five patches, and the four boxes were valued around $648, according to state police Cpl. Timothy Janosco. He is a criminal investigator based at the Carlisle barracks and was called in to do an independent investigation, Sunday confirmed.
$2 million bail: Markowski was only recently released from York Hospital, according to Sunday. Since then, he's been held at York County Prison without bail.
After the preliminary hearing, public defender Jackson asked Judge Edie to set bail.
She set bail at $2 million and ordered that, should Markowski be able to post that amount, he be under supervision by the probation department, undergo drug and alcohol testing, forfeit all weapons to the sheriff's office and provide a good address where he will live.
The robbery happened while Markowski was staying at a home on Crestview Drive in York Township, according to court documents.
However, Jackson said in court that his client has lived in Maryland his entire life.
Edie set Markowski's formal court arraignment for 9 a.m. Sept. 30.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.