A 23-year-old man who was wearing a bulletproof vest was killed early yesterday in a shootout on a quiet Southwest Baltimore street during which three men fired at least 70 rounds, the police said.
Detectives are investigating the shootout as a drug-related murder "because of the number of shots fired and the brazen way it occurred," said Sgt. Roger W. Nolan of the homicide unit.
The shooting began just after 2 a.m. as most people in the first block of North Kossuth Street, a quiet street off Caton Avenue in Southwest Baltimore, were sleeping.
"You couldn't help but hear it," said one area resident, Thomas Brooks. "I was scared stiff."
The victim was identified as Sheldan E. Simon, who residents said had grown up in the neighborhood. The police said that Mr. Simon had been standing in front of his house when two assailants -- one on each side of the street, judging from the spent casings -- opened fire.
When the police arrived they found the man lying dead on his front lawn. Next to him were two semiautomatic handguns, still smoking, which the police said were probably used by Mr. Simon during the gunbattle with his killers.
He was wearing a bulletproof vest, but had been shot three times in the head and once in the left thigh, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In all, the police believe that 70 shots were fired during the gunfight. Four houses in the neighborhood and seven parked cars were hit by bullets and a number of shots ricocheted off the sidewalk. But the police said that no one had been wounded.
Many of the residents said they waited until police officers started arriving before peering out the windows of their homes to see what had happened.
Sergent Nolan said that no drugs or large amounts of money were found on the victim, but that the shooting nevertheless had the markings of a drug-related murder.
If so, it was the second to take place with automatic or semiautomatic weapons being fired openly on the streets of Baltimore within the past two months.
On Feb. 20, warring drug factions -- at least one armed with an assault weapon -- engaged in a shootout in broad daylight at the intersection of North Avenue and Pulaski Street.
Two men were killed in that shootout and two others were wounded, including a bystander.
The shooting yesterday took residents of the neighborhood by surprise.
Many of those interviewed said that violence was rare in the area and that the nearest the drug problem ever came was Edmondson Avenue, about six blocks away.
One resident, Kim Scarborough, said she had grown up with Mr. Simon and knew him as a "real nice, quiet guy." She declined to discuss his alleged involvement in drugs.
The killing of Mr. Simon was the 82nd homicide in Baltimore this year -- two more than for this same time last year. The police said nearly 45 percent of the murders are drug related.