North Ave. killings mobilize concerned community

February 23, 1991|By Rafael Alvarez

The killers who sprayed the corner of North Avenue and Pulaski Street with semiautomatic gunfire in broad daylight Wednesday left two men dead, two others wounded, and got the attention of West Baltimore residents who have become jaded by murder.

"People will tolerate a murder in a back alley, a body with a bullet in the head," said police Maj. Eugene Tanzymore, commander of the Western District.

"But they won't tolerate two people dead in the middle of the day from automatic weapons."

Police say 305 people died by homicide in Baltimore last year, 78 of them in the Western District, where Major Tanzymore grew up. This year, 13 of the 46 people murdered in Baltimore have been killed there.

Yesterday, a group of about 50 people who live, work, worship and own businesses near the notorious drug corner of Pulaski and North met with Major Tanzymore and demanded to know what he was going to do about it.

"It used to be such a lovely, lovely area," said Ruby Lee, 65, a Pulaski Street resident since 1956. "I hear gunshots all the time."

The immediate response from police headquarters was to appropriate $95,000 in overtime pay for additional, late-night foot patrols in the Western District and in the city's eight other police districts and to bring in officers on horseback to clear drug corners. That money will run out in June.

But even in tough economic times, spreading around a little bit of money for more police presence is the easy part of fighting drug violence, Major Tanzymore said.

The hard part will be keeping communities vigilant after the problem starts to clear up.

"I know we can take back the community that you think you have lost, but when you clean it up, it's upon you to keep calling the ZTC police and not feel that you have won the battle, because [drug criminals] will be right back," he told the group, which was organized by local business owners and gathered yesterday in a neighborhood church.

"I don't have all the answers," Major Tanzymore said, "but you've got to let us know about everything."

One by one, the citizens took turns telling Major Tanzymore horror stories that go on every day in the streets and alleys jutting off the west end of North Avenue.

Keith E. Bailey, owner of a "Your Neighborhood Florist," told of the day in early January when his store was commandeered by a gang of 20 men who cornered their prey -- a man in his mid-20s -- among the roses and carnations and beat him repeatedly with a piece of pipe.

Eric Pollack, who operates the paint and hardware store his family has owned at 2102 W. North Ave. for 35 years, talked about losing customers because people are afraid to wade through a crowd of drug dealers to get to his door.

"All kinds of people go to that corner to buy drugs . . . White people in fancy dresses and car salesmen, they come to my corner from all over the city to buy drugs," said Mr. Pollack.

He complained that "a nice working-class neighborhood" was being destroyed by drugs and guns.

"The dealing is not subtle, it's not hidden," he said. "I don't fear physical harm to myself. It's just that when people are shooting each other on the street, you don't want to be around."

And Yvonne Miller, 41, of Walbrook Avenue bemoaned the absurdity of waiting at the front door every evening at 5:30 to make sure that her grown daughter made it safely from the bus stop to her home.

"We better make these [new] foot patrols welcome," she said. "When they come around, get out of your house, shake their hand, say, 'How ya doin'? Glad to see you, and please come back again.' "

Police had made no arrests last night in the Wednesday slayings of Bryan Joseph Ligons, 25, of the 800 block of McKean Avenue and Ricardo Myers, 33, of the 500 block of Glen Allen Drive, both of West Baltimore.

Anyone with information about the killings is asked to call the Baltimore Police Department homicide unit at 396-2117.

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