Before David Linthicum was accused of shooting two Baltimore County officers, stealing a police car and leading officers on a high-speed chase last week, he faced a different problem: His older brother was mad at him for ignoring their mother.
Two days had passed since their maternal grandmother died and David had yet to make contact with his grieving mom. Frustrated, Martin Linthicum, the older brother, fired off angry text messages to David, with whom he had not spoken in more than a year. David lashed back, then blocked his brother’s number, Martin said.
A few hours later, Martin phoned his father, John Whitaker Linthicum, from whom he had also been estranged. To his shock, his father said, “David shot a cop.”
The elder Linthicum, known as “Whit,” then handed the phone to an officer who briefed Martin on the shooting. Martin, who currently lives in Ireland, spent the next two days glued to a police audio feed from his home state, listening in horror as a young man — who was identified by authorities as his brother — managed to elude police near his Cockeysville home, shoot and seriously injure a police detective, and speed off to Harford County with police in pursuit, according to authorities. Martin felt certain David would be killed by police, but after a seven-hour standoff in a wooded area in Fallston, his younger brother was arrested early Friday without serious injuries.
Authorities have charged David Linthicum, 24, with 11 counts that include attempted murder and armed carjacking. His arrest followed a three-day manhunt that terrified residents of Baltimore and Harford counties, putting many under a stay-at-home advisory.
Detective Jonathan Chih, who was struck multiple times, remained in Maryland Shock Trauma Center but was alert and recovering, Baltimore County Police said Sunday. The other wounded officer was treated and released on Feb. 8. He was shot while responding to a 911 call from Whit Linthicum, who told police that David was threatening to kill himself at the Cockeysville home they shared, according to the police report.
Baltimore County Police declined to say late Monday if the officer’s visit to the Linthicum home followed agency protocol, noting only that their field manual states that officers attempt to assess whether a resident is in crisis. “When safe, an officer will try to de-escalate or offer aid,” police spokeswoman Joy Stewart wrote in an email.
Speaking to The Baltimore Banner from Germany, where he had traveled for his grandmother’s funeral, Martin Linthicum, 26, said his father — a registered sex offender — and brother had been mired in anger, bitterness and a hatred of authority figures. More than once, Martin had tried to convince David to move out of their father’s home. He believes David’s downward spiral and alleged spate of violence could have been averted if more people — relatives, teachers and legal authorities — had paid attention to David’s troubling behavior over the years.
“David didn’t get there on his own,” Martin said. “This was entirely preventable. He should have gotten help years ago. I brought this to their [the extended family’s] attention. Nothing was done.”
Martin is the first member of the Linthicum family to speak publicly about his brother’s case. He said he was stunned by David’s alleged actions, and that he didn’t think his brother had any sort of special knowledge or training that enabled him to elude police. He did not even think David knew his way around the sprawling Loch Raven watershed that encircled his neighborhood, believing David managed to avoid capture through smarts and “a lot of luck.”
“I will say this, he is a very smart kid,” Martin said of his brother.
Martin believes David is severely depressed. Despite David’s deeply entrenched problems, Martin says there is another side to his brother. “He can be so kind and caring and thoughtful,” he said. “If people did the right thing, even a few more times, where it mattered, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
The elder Linthicum, 57, declined to speak with reporters Monday. “Don’t bother calling me ever again, OK?” he said.
In a statement, David’s defense attorneys cast doubt on Martin’s recollections.
“From what I understand, Martin Linthicum has been estranged from his brother, David for over two years, and he has no knowledge of David’s current situation, mindset, or mental health status,” public defenders Deborah Katz Levi and James Dills said in an email Tuesday. “This tragedy stems from a crisis response that an interview with an overseas, estranged relative cannot credibly shed light on.”
Martin traces many of David’s problems to a Carroll County judge’s decision to award custody of the brothers to their father in the early 2000s when they were young children. Their father had met their mother, Sonja — a deaf, German-born woman — when he was stationed with the military in her home country, according to Martin.
The two quickly married, then moved back to Maryland, where both boys were born. Martin described his father as abusive toward their mother, as well as to David and him. He would make sexual comments about women and girls in front of the boys and show them “inappropriate” sexual materials, Martin said.
When the brothers were teenagers, their father filled the library above the garage with items of a sexual nature, which made the boys uncomfortable, Martin said. He added that his father would often leave the door open.
Whit Linthicum was twice arrested in connection to indecent exposure allegations in the 1990s near the family’s then-home in Carroll County, according to court records. He pleaded not guilty to the first charge in 1994, but received probation before judgment and was fined a few hundred dollars. He pleaded guilty when charged again, in 1996, and again received a fine and probation before judgment.
The couple separated in 2003 and the following year Sonja filed a protective order against her husband, ordering him to vacate their house, according to court records.
In 2005, Sonja testified in writing that her ex-husband frequently entered her home without knocking. “I kept fighting for my boys’ safety, I am still scared and very frustrated — afraid to face him.”
In 2006, Sonja dismissed her attorney; she alleged that he was not prepared for hearings and negligent in her case.
Martin believes the judge granted custody to Whit Linthicum because their mom is both deaf and a foreigner. “She didn’t have a good support system. She didn’t have a good attorney,” Martin said. “She didn’t understand what was going on.”
Conversely, Martin said, his father comes from a well-off family and is descended from the Linthicums for whom the town in Anne Arundel County is named. A portrait of an ancestor who was a Confederate soldier hung in the family home, Martin said.
Whit Linthicum had a hold over the boys, Martin said. When the judge asked the children whom they wanted to live with, they picked their dad.
“I did look up to him quite a bit,” Martin recalled. “David did as well.”
Martin said the painful and lengthy custody battle was traumatic for both brothers. But while Martin carved his own identity, David, his older brother said, never managed to break from their father’s influence.
“David was always under his wing,” Martin said. “As a kid, he would try to emulate him.” Whit Linthicum worked as a general contractor when the boys were young and David would pretend to build houses to be like his dad.
David attended several private schools, including the Odyssey School and the Jemicy School, which specializes in students with learning differences. But he had many behavioral problems and was once required to attend a wilderness camp in order to return to school, Martin said.
Martin moved out of his father’s house on Powers Avenue in Cockeysville in 2014 when he went to college. But when he went back to visit his father and brother, he said, David was selling marijuana out of the basement. “People would just park in the driveway, walk around to the back of the house and knock on the glass door back there,” Martin said.
Martin said his brother began using marijuana in his early teens. Despite their father’s initial adamant opposition, David continued to use marijuana and eventually began to sell it, Martin said.
In 2019, David was charged with drug distribution after police, who had come to the house to arrest Whit Linthicum for possessing child pornography, discovered that David was growing and packaging marijuana, authorities said. David Linthicum was charged with possession of a dangerous, controlled substance with intent to distribute and pleaded guilty; he received probation before judgment.
Meanwhile, Whit Linthicum pleaded guilty to a felony child porn charge and received a suspended two-year jail sentence and probation.
As David became more engrossed in selling drugs, he became fearful for his safety, Martin said. David set up cameras outside the house so he could see who was approaching. He kept a pistol on his bedroom dresser, one of multiple guns in the home, Martin said. The elder Linthicum taught both of his sons how to shoot at a young age and kept several weapons and ammunition in the home, Martin said.
“Guns were very open,” Martin said. “Almost every time I walked in the house, there was one sitting there.”
According to police charging documents, David fired a semiautomatic rifle at the officer on Wednesday; a weapon matching that description was also found in the car authorities say he stole the following day.
The family’s home is well-known in their upscale community. In 2008, the home was the scene of a horrific quadruple murder, as 15-year-old Nicholas Browning shot his parents and two younger brothers in their sleep.
The family’s real estate agent had warned them about the home’s past, but that did not deter Whit Linthicum from buying it in 2010. “We didn’t think much of it,” Martin said. “It was a good deal on a house.”
Yet the family had many reminders of the home’s history. Neighbors would talk about the tragedy that unfolded there, and one of Martin’s buddies had been a friend of one of the slain Browning boys. Mysterious noises would occasionally rattle Martin, he recalled.
Both Martin and David grew up steeped in their father’s ideology, which stressed conservative values and not bowing to authority. But Martin attributed his emotional and intellectual evolution to the caring teachers he had at the St. Paul’s School for Boys and friends he met along the way. He later attended the University of South Carolina and got involved in Democratic politics.
After the 2019 arrests, Martin was horrified that his father had been dealing in child pornography. He pulled the court records from his parents’ divorce and Whit Linthicum’s prior criminal cases and grew convinced that the judge had erred in granting his father custody.
“It’s disgraceful,” Martin said. “He should have gotten custody revoked.”
Martin confronted family members over their decision to back the elder Linthicum and severed ties with several relatives, including his father.
The following year, Martin moved to Ireland and began using his mother’s maiden name as his last name because he no longer wanted to be associated with the Linthicum family.
Meanwhile, David leaned further into his father’s right-wing ideology, Martin said. Both expressed loathing for national Democratic figures. Whit Linthicum discouraged David from attending college, Martin said, in part because he believed his son would be brainwashed and become a liberal. David took some community college classes and briefly attended a four-year college before dropping out, Martin said.
David also grew bitter about law enforcement officers after twice being arrested on suspicion of selling marijuana, Martin said. Twice, Martin said, he saw David post Snapchat stories of police showing up at the home, captioning them with threats to shoot the officers if they returned, Martin said, adding that he told his brother to remove his posts.
Martin wonders why his father decided to call the police about his brother on Wednesday, Feb. 8. He said the officer who briefed him that day said David was angry because his father would not let him drive a motorcycle due to the fact he lacked a license to do so. David held a gun to his own head and threatened to kill himself, Martin said. When the officer arrived, authorities said, David opened fire on the officer as well as his father, who was not wounded.
“The last thing David should ever see when he’s suicidal, especially with a gun in his hand, is a police officer, because that’ll drive him up a wall,” Martin said. “He has a deep hatred of the police.”
Yet Martin remains startled by all that came next. “I’m just so angry that this happened,” Martin said. “I do love him, deeply. He’s the only thing I really cared about in that house.”
Baltimore Banner reporters Penelope Blackwell and Justin Fenton contributed to this report.
This story has been updated.