A 23-year-old man who was killed April 10 in a shootout in Southwest Baltimore apparently had been involved in a violent feud that prompted two earlier shootings and the murder of another man three days later, the police said yesterday.
Investigators said a drug dispute may have touched off the dispute, which quickly escalated as two rival groups engaged in shootouts with semiautomatic weapons or drive-by shootings in which houses and cars were riddled with bullets.
At least 125 shots were fired on the streets in Southwest and West Baltimore in four shooting incidents that began April 6.
Sgt. Gary Childs of the homicide unit said investigators have been able to connect all four of the shootings because some of the same handguns were used in each incident.
The slayings of two men have been attributed to the conflict.
On April 10, Sheldon E. Simon, 23, was shot to death in front of his house in the first block of North Kossuth Street in a gunbattle in which some 70 shots were fired. He was wearing a bulletproof vest.
Three days later, a friend of Mr. Simon, 19-year-old Anthony Payne of the 4400 block of Eldone Road, Yale Heights, was shot to death in the 700 block of North Pulaski Street.
Yesterday, the police made their first arrests in the case, charging two men in the slaying of Mr. Simon.
The suspects were identified as Ronnie Alexander Hunt, 23, of the 2500 block of West Baltimore Street and Harry Johnson III, 20, of the 2400 block of Garrison Boulevard.
Two other people are being sought for questioning in Mr. Simon's death, the police said.
The two men under arrest were taken into custody about 10 a.m. Tuesday as they sat in a four-wheel-drive truck in the first block of South Calverton Road, the police said. Officers recovered a .40-caliber handgun and two clips of ammunition containing 34 rounds.
The police said that the handgun has been linked to the shootings, and that investigators have established that Mr. Hunt and Mr. Simon
knew one another.
Mr. Simon also was the target of a shooting April 6, the police said.
He and a girlfriend had been in an apartment in the 4500 block of Dunland Road in Yale Heights when gunmen rode past in a car and fired at least 40 shots into the apartment and Mr. Simon's car.
Four nights later Mr. Simon was killed in a shootout in the front yard of his house. He was wearing a bulletproof vest but was hit three times in the head and once in the thigh by at least two gunmen firing from opposite sides of the street.
Two semiautomatic handguns used by Mr. Simon to return fire were found next to his body.
Detectives said they searched the victim's house after the shooting and found drugs.
Just a half hour before Mr. Simon was killed, gunmen drove past Mr. Payne's house on Eldone Road and fired a barrage of shots.
At least 14 shell casings were recovered, the police said, but no one was hit.
Three days later, Mr. Payne's enemies caught up with him on North Pulaski Street and shot him in the head, the police said. Before he died, Mr. Payne reportedly told the police that he knew who had shot him, but he was either unable or unwilling to give the name.
"We know that a lot of ammunition has been expended," said Sgt. Roger W. Nolan of the homicide unit.
"Right now, we don't know how many more people we're looking for," the sergeant said.