Social worker killed at work Woman, 29, dies after attack at city center.

June 18, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance and William B. Talbott Edward L. Heard Jr. contributed to this story.

Shouting that he had not received his food stamps, a 34-year-old man today drew an 8-inch knife on a city Social Services caseworker at the Rosemont Multipurpose Center in West Baltimore and stabbed her fatally in the chest.

The man, a West Fayette street resident, then was shot in the shoulder by a private security guard. He was listed in good condition and under police guard at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Police said he would be charged on his release from the hospital.

Police said the caseworker, Conya O'Neil, 29, died at University less than two hours after the 9:30 a.m. attack. Hospital officials said she had been stabbed twice in the shoulder and twice in the chest. One of the chest wounds pierced her heart.

Sue Fitzsimmons, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Social Services, said, "It [the department] is a family, and it is with deep sorrow we are now seeing the death of one of our family members."

O'Neil had been working for the department for almost two years, she said. She also confirmed that the man was a DSS client at the center. "He had a reason to be in the building," Fitzsimmons said.

Police said the man walked into the third-floor Social Services office at the Lutheran Hospital of Maryland building about 9:30 a.m., shouting "I didn't get my food stamps."

The office is one of several community-service agencies and outpatient medical clinics in the Rosemont Center, in what was once the Lutheran Hospital complex.

Police said the man then pulled an 8-inch kitchen knife and lunged at O'Neil, who was not his caseworker.

The woman's screams, and calls from other employees brought Manuel Johnson, a private security guard, to the scene.

Police said Johnson ordered the man to drop the knife, and when he refused, Johnson pulled his .38-revolver from a holster and repeated his order.

When the man again failed to comply, police said, the guard fired, striking him in the shoulder.

Both O'Neil and the suspect were taken by ambulance to University. O'Neil was pronounced dead at 11:22 a.m.

Fitzsimmons said the Rosemont Center office was closed for the day after the attack. Grief counseling will be made available to workers when the center reopens tomorrow.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke went to the hospital emergency room shortly after 11 a.m. to comfort the woman's family, said hospital spokeswoman Joan Shnipper.

James Whittley, 55, of Randallstown, was at the Rosemont Center today to check on his own stamps, which were late. He said it's not un usual for food stamps, which are mailed to clients, to be late in arriving. "But a lot of people [clients] don't have the mentality to cope with it," he said.

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