Gunfire from semiautomatic weapons sprayed a crowded West Baltimore street corner yesterday, killing two men and wounding two others as people screamed and ran for cover.
Police said there were two gunmen with semiautomatic weapons who fired at least 40 shots in a matter of seconds. Bullets hit two parked cars and passed through windows into a store and at least three nearby row houses. None of the occupants was hurt.
"From the area where it was and the fact there was such massive gunfire, it's looking like some kind of drug dispute," said Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman. He noted that the men who were killed both had been arrested numerous times on narcotics and robbery charges.
The men who were wounded -- one slightly injured, the other hospitalized in serious condition last night -- appear to have been bystanders who were simply standing in the wrong place.
At least four police officers, including a homicide detective returning downtown from a Druid Hill Park suicide, heard the gunfire and arrived within a minute or two -- one of them in time to see dozens of people running from the intersection at North Avenue and Pulaski Street.
"There were cars going the wrong way, people yelling and screaming and running all over the place," said the homicide investigator, Detective Mark Tomlin.
"Nobody could convince me this was anything but drug-related," he said. "What else could it be?"
One victim found dead in the westbound lanes of the 2000 block of West North Avenue had "at least 10 holes in him" from bullets, Detective Tomlin said, adding that another victim -- who died en route to the hospital -- "seemed to have even more."
The man who was dead at the scene was identified as Bryan Joseph Ligons, 25, of the 800 block of McKean Avenue. The other slaying victim was Ricardo Myers, 33, whose address was unknown, police said.
Injured were Dwayne Goodwin, 18, of the 1800 of Whitmore Avenue, who was in serious condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a wound to the upper right thigh, and Charles Jones, 40, of the 3300 block of Ripple Road, released after treatment at Liberty Medical Center for a wound to the buttocks, police said.
Detectives were sorting out details last night from interviews with more than 20 witnesses, some of them speech-and-hearing-impaired residents of a house on North Avenue who were questioned through an interpreter.
The site of the violence was described by police as one of Baltimore's "drug-free zones," an intersection where the city has attempted to halt drug trafficking. According to police sources, it is also a corner that has been fought over by drug dealers -- including one shot to death in a van in Baltimore County last year and another now standing trial on federal drug charges.
And by accounts of owners of two adjoining North Avenue homes hit by the bullets yesterday, it is also a place where people used to leave doors unlocked when they walked -- in safety -- to nearby stores and churches.
"Where can you go?" asked Isamore Walker, pointing out the window frame and plastic air-conditioner flap hit by a bullet that passed through her second-floor living room. "When you get to be retirement age, where can you go?"
Mrs. Walker, who has owned her house since 1951, said there was another shooting in the neighborhood Tuesday night -- a fact confirmed by Mr. Hill, the police spokesman.
"Sometimes you hear shots, or it might just be a [car] backfire," Mrs. Walker said. "But if you have any sense, you don't go look."
Next door, Margaret N. Brown showed a large hole in an exterior storm window and two smaller holes on the interior window from the rapid burst of gunfire. The bullets chipped a homemade table where Mrs. Brown displays personal and religious keepsakes but caused no other damage.
Mrs. Brown, 75, who also has owned her home since 1951, recalled with pleasure the days when "I could go to church and leave my doors open -- not even locked. But now . . . sometimes to go from here to the corner, I'm scared to go to the hardware store.
"It's sad, but everything's going to be all right after a while," Mrs. Brown said, expressing certainty that "my Father, my Lord" ultimately would set things right.
From initial accounts and the positions of at least 40 bullet shell casings at the scene, police said the gunmen appeared to have stepped out of an alley behind the Golden Howard Food Store, where the first fatal burst of shots killed the unidentified 33-year-old man on Pulaski Street.
At least one bullet tore through a store window and was recovered by detectives from inside a package of paper napkins.
Other shots fired in a northeasterly direction from the intersection of Pulaski and North appeared to have killed Mr. Ligons and hit the windows or doors of the three homes.