Defense Says Soldier Only Fired Into Air At Party Where Man Slain, 2 Wounded Others Testify He Shot Repeatedly Into Crowd

November 11, 1990|By Michael James and Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Michael James and Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff writers

The defense contends that Army Spec. 4 Jeffrey Louis Fowlkes only fired a couple of shots into the air at a crowded party in Glenelg last spring in an attempt to break up a fight, and never discharged the shots that killed one man.

But prosecution witnesses in Fowlkes' murder trial, which began Wednesday in Howard County Circuit Court, testified that Fowlkes, 23, fired repeatedly into the crowd and killed 21-year-old Joseph T. Taylor, a Cooksville resident, and wounded two other party-goers.

Witnesses also rebutted the defense's argument that after Fowlkes fired the warning shots, someone grabbed his arm and forced it down. The defense maintained that during that time, other shots may have been fired.

"Nobody would get close to someone shooting a gun," said Anthony Oram, 28, of Westminster, who attended the party and was standing several feet away from the defendant when the shooting began. "He was standing alone, firing the gun."

Oram and other prosecution witnesses said after Fowlkes fired into the air, other party-goers who came from Baltimore with Fowlkes urged Fowlkes to shoot into the crowd.

"People were telling him, 'There's the guy,' 'There's the guy,' and he started shooting toward those people," said Deidra Burgess, whose mother owns the home where the party took place. "I think he was trying to shoot at someone who had ducked through the crowd."

Fowlkes' trial, which started Wednesday, is expected to continue through most of this week.

Burgess testified Thursday that some fighting had broken out earlier at the May 19 beer bash in the 13100 block of Triadelphia Road, which was attended by about 200 people. She also testified that she believes Fowlkes was aiming at people who had been involved in the fights.

Two witnesses who were wounded at the party -- William E. Shird, 20, of Baltimore, and Ronald E. Miles Jr., 24, of Cooksville -- testified before the jury of eight men and four women that they did not see who fired the shots that hit them.

Shird, a friend of Fowlkes, who was shot in the elbow and the back, said he saw Fowlkes fire shots into the air, but then everyone started running, and he did not see who fired the other shots.

Prosecutor Kate O'Donnell contends that Fowlkes fired repeatedly into the crowd that night and is solely responsible for the death of Taylor, who was shot in the neck, and the injuries of the two other men.

"He is, in fact and by legal definition, a murderer," O'Donnell said during opening arguments Thursday before Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr.

At the time of the shooting, Fowlkes was stationed at the Fort Lee Army base in Petersburg, Va. He has appeared in court in full dress uniform.

O'Donnell said Fowlkes fired shots from a 9mm handgun into the crowd because he wanted "to be a big man" in front of his friends.

"They were too cool to socialize, or to mesh with the people at this party," said O'Donnell, who told the jury that Fowlkes -- a Baltimore City resident -- had arrived with other city residents who took a dislike to the locals at the party.

But Defense Attorney Richard W. Winelander questioned whether the bullet that killed Taylor came from Fowlkes' gun. At least two other party members fired weapons after Fowlkes shot into the air, Winelander said during opening arguments.

Ballistics tests show that at least one other gun -- a shotgun -- was fired into the crowd during the party, he said. FBI experts are expected to testify this week about whether the bullets found were likely to come from Fowlkes' weapon or another gun.

One witness, Alonzo L. Miles, of Cooksville, testified Friday he was hit in the arm by shotgun pellets.

Winelander described Fowlkes as a strong-willed person who would not have fired his gun with the intention of killing party-goers.

"He didn't go to the party with the intention of murdering his own friend,"

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