Man arrested in killing of 6-year-old Police say "turf war" led to fatal W. Baltimore shooting.

July 11, 1991|By Tom Keyser and Alisa Samuels | Tom Keyser and Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff Elisha King contributed to this story.

The pigtailed girl died from a gunshot blast to her head after attending a block party and clapping to the music of an anti-drug concert.

Tiffany Smith, the 6-year-old killed Tuesday during a wild shoot-out, had sat on the curb during the block party in her West Baltimore neighborhood.

She had clapped as Nathaniel T. Rice and the P.S. MAD Kids (Parents, Students Moving Against Drugs) performed anti-drug songs in the street.

Two and a half hours later, at 10:40 p.m., residents sat on front steps as children played on the sidewalk. It was a warm summer night in the city.

Two gunmen suddenly faced off in the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St. Police spokesman Dennis Hill said one stood on the southwest corner of Rosedale at Westwood Avenue, the other on the northeast corner of Rosedale at North Avenue.

Hill estimated the distance between the men at 125 feet.

They started shooting at one another with handguns. People on the street scrambled for cover, except for Tiffany Smith, who collapsed on the sidewalk, struck by a bullet in the head. She died a half-hour later.

No one else was wounded. The gunmen ran away.

Shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday, a 20-year-old Anne Arundel County man turned himself in at police headquarters, Hill said.

The police charged the man, Guy Bernard Wilson of the 300 block of Jennings Road in Severna Park, with the murder of Tiffany Smith and the use of a handgun during the commission of a felony.

Wilson was locked up without bail at the Southwestern District police station pending a bail review hearing today in District Court.

Hill said the gun battle was apparently some sort of turf war. It is not clear whether the war was over drugs or a woman or something else, Hill said.

The police recovered seven 9mm shell casings from the street, but after talking to witnesses believe 14 to 16 shots were fired, Hill said.

No guns have been recovered, he said, but the number of shots indicates at least one of the guns was semiautomatic with a clip, he said.

The police today continued to search for the second gunman.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke visited Tiffany's family last night in the 3000 block of W. North Ave. Afterward he said: "When something like this happens, we all lose a little something of ourselves."

Tiffany would have turned 7 in three weeks and entered the second grade at Edgewood Elementary School in September. She was playing with her doll, Kelly, and a friend, Quinyaetta Winfield, 8, when she was shot.

They were outside Quinyaetta's house, where Tiffany was going to spend the night.

"I miss her already," Quinyaetta said yesterday.

She said her friend was a happy girl who wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.

After visiting Tiffany's mother and other relatives last night, Schmoke said he would look into whether the police could do a better job in the area.

But he noted that residents told him a foot patrolman had walked through the neighborhood 15 minutes before Tuesday night's shoot-out.

Shootings are commonplace, and drug dealers operate on the streets every day, said people who live and work in the area.

"That's nothing new," Annie Wright, a business owner, said of the shoot-out. "It just happened to catch a child in the cross-fire."

Wright owns Professional Cleaners at North Avenue and Rosedale Street. She is president of the Hilton North Merchants Association, which, she admitted, has not been active lately.

But the problems in the neighborhood -- drugs, unemployment, hopelessness -- cannot be solved by any organization, she said.

"People have been coming in here all day and saying, 'Shame. Ain't that a shame.' " she said. "Yes, it is a shame that that little girl had to get killed. But it's not going to stop. Nothing's going to change."

James Mears agreed. He is president of the Winchester Improvement Association and a member of the Alliance of Rosemont Community Organizations, the umbrella group for area neighborhood associations.

Sure, he said, a greater police presence would help. But the area needs recreational activities for youngsters, tougher loitering laws and stricter enforcement, day camps, church activities and a completely new value system, he said.

Reporters focus attention on a community after a tragedy, Mears said, but then the reporters leave, "and the same people are hanging on the same corners. That environment is still there, and a new tragedy can happen tomorrow."

Herman Pittman, who owns Pittman's Sensuous Women beauty salon in the 3100 block of W. North Ave., said the problem is a lethal mix of guns and drugs.

And, he said, lawmakers, the National Rifle Association and gun dealers are as much to blame for Tiffany Smith's murder as the man who pulled the trigger.

He said he had closed his shop Tuesday night when he heard what sounded like cannons exploding. He ran around the corner, where Tiffany lay in a pool of blood.

A couple of hours earlier, Pittman had noticed the girl sitting on the curb clapping in time to the music during the block party.

"Then, I looked at that little girl," he said. "I looked down on that little girl, and it was bad. It was extremely bad to see a 6-year-old girl shot in the head."

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