Cops shoot knife-wielder in library after store robbery in Olney

Scene of shooting at library branch on North 5th Street yesterday.
Scene of shooting at library branch on North 5th Street yesterday.
Posted: September 28, 2010

A knife-wielding crook attempting to hide in the children's section of a library branch in Olney after robbing a store owner yesterday was shot by a police officer when he lunged at her with the weapon, cops said.

Mark Cottman, 31, of Warnock Street near Wagner Avenue, was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center and was listed in critical condition, police said.

Library employees told police that the man had visited the branch in the past and had been seen muttering to himself, a police source said.

Yesterday afternoon, an employee at the library watched Cottman remove his shirt and calmly exit the library, police said, before he walked three doors down to J&K Shoes, on 5th Street near Tabor Road, where he robbed the store owner of his pocket money.

Afterward, a source said, he went back to the library and put his shirt back on. When two female officers approached, they asked him to show his hands. At first he refused then he opened one hand, which was empty. Clutching a knife in the other hand, he lunged at one of the officers, police said.

A 35th District officer opened fire and shot Cottman in the face. He lost two teeth, the source said.

Cottman was charged with robbery, assault and related offenses. He has 13 arrests under his belt, including sexual assault, theft, burglary, robbery and narcotics charges, said police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore. Vanore said that Cottman also has been charged with kidnapping in Florida.

There were no children in the library at the time of the shooting and no one was hurt except for Cottman. Still, the shooting had parents on edge.

"Our kids come here to do their homework," said Rasheena Noris, 32. "It's a nice, calm, relaxing library."

Tahliah Brown, 13, and her sister Precious, 10, do their homework there daily after school.

"They didn't have to shoot him in a public space," Tahliah said. "Right now I'm scared. You can't go to the library nowadays."

The owner of the shoe store ran into Varughese Thomas' variety store after he was robbed.

"He was nervous," said Thomas, 61, adding that the thief approached the owner with a knife and robbed him as he was pricing items. Thomas said that he's been robbed twice at gunpoint at his variety store.

Another area store owner, who declined to identify herself, said that she had been robbed at least five times at gunpoint.

"Money is not everything," she said. "My life is. Having a business is very hard, but they think it's easy."

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