Police say a 24-year-old man, who was wearing a bulletproof vest and was slain in his front yard in a shootout that featured semiautomatic weapons, may have been expecting trouble.
Sheldan E. Simon, of the first block of N. Kossuth St., was killed early yesterday in the shootout during which he and his assailants exchanged at least 70 shots, police said.
"Shortly before he was shot to death while returning fire from behind a bush in his front yard," homicide detective Harry Edgerton said last night, "Simon was sitting in his front room with a friend and had the vest on even then."
Edgerton said it appeared Simon was anticipating a visit from someone he was prepared to confront with gunfire because he was armed with a 9mm H & K semi-automatic handgun and an Uzi-type machine pistol.
"They [the weapons] had clips that could hold up to 30 rounds," said Edgerton.
Edgerton said Simon, whose only cover consisted of a bush, was shot several times in the head and once in the leg and was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the incident that began about 2:10 a.m.
"Whoever killed him," the detective said, "had him in their sights from two different angles."
Edgerton said that once Simon went down, probably from the leg wound, it was entirely probable that his killers left their cover behind cars parked across the street and fatally shot Simon.
He said Simon's attackers fled on foot.
Edgerton said a search of Simon's basement apartment turned up drug paraphernalia and a large quantity of expensive jewelry.
"We believe he was dealing in drugs at a local level and that he may have tried to take on someone else's territory," Edgerton said.
Edgerton said bullets and shell casings found at the scene continue to be examined by the police department crime lab to see if any match those recovered at the scene of recent shootouts with semiautomatic weapons, including one on Feb. 20 at North Avenue and Pulaski Street in which two alleged drug dealers were slain.
On Kossuth Street yesterday, one resident, who asked not to be identified, said, "I was dreaming and said, 'My gosh, it's like the Fourth of July.' Then I said, I'm not dreaming. This is a war zone. This is for real."
Some of the bullets fired in the shootout hit houses and cars.
Witnesses told police they saw four or five men firing at Simon. One, a heavyset young man, may have been injured in the shootout as he was limping as he fled, witnesses said.
Police and residents said the working-class southwest Baltimore neighborhood has been designated a drug-free zone, but has had problems with drug dealers.
The shooting puzzled both Simon's sister, who lives with her mother in the Kossuth Street house, and a long-time friend of the victim.
"I can't imagine what he could have done for this sort of thing to occur," said, Michael Ebb, 40, of Catonsville. "I never knew him to do anything to hurt or harm anybody."
Denise Simon, 28, said her brother's slaying "is really hard on us. We just don't want him to go down as another" homicide statistic.
Denise Simon said her brother was an only son raised by a single mother. There is another sister.
Yesterday, The Evening Sun incorrectly reported that Sheldan Simon was a high school dropout. But Denise Simon said he was a 1985 graduate of Carver Vocational-Technical Senior High School and had attended a RETS electronics school and the Maryland Institute College of Art. She described her brother as an above-average student.
Denise Simon said her brother also enjoyed rap music and bodybuilding. "He wanted to be a songwriter, a rapper," she said.